Eric Clapton sues woman for selling a bootleg on eBay

A bootleg is an unauthorized live recording of a music concert. Since bands usually release only a handful of live recordings officially, the bootleg scene is the way to get live recordings. I bought my first bootleg tape - an Aerosmith concert - over the counter, in a music store in Bucharest, almost 30 years ago.

In the last 20 years, I've been downloading stuff and only bought the items that I wanted to have in my collection. There are people that still manufacture and sell bootlegs nowadays, although the hype is gone.

And today I read this piece of news: Eric Clapton successfully sues woman for selling a bootleg live CD. She was found guilty of infringing copyright.

The German woman was selling a single bootlegged recording of one of his concerts from the 1980s on eBay. Clapton sent a Dusseldorf court an affidavit stating that the recordings were illegal. The defendant claimed she didn't know she was infringing copyright, selling a recording for 9.95 EUR. Stating that her late husband had purchased the original CD at a department store in 1987, the defendant appealed to the court, which was rejected.

The judge ruled that it did not matter that she hadn't purchased the CD herself and did not know the recording was done illegally. Clapton's injunction requires the defendant to pay the legal fees of both parties, which come out to about 3,500 USD. If she continues to keep the listing of the bootlegged recording up on eBay, she'll face a fine of about 283,000 USD or six months in prison.

Update, December 22nd - Eric Clapton's management has issued the following statement:

Given the widespread and often misleading press reports about a recent bootleg case involving a woman in Germany, the following provides clarification to set the record straight.

Germany is one of several countries where sales of unauthorized and usually poor-quality illegal bootleg CDs are rife, which harms both the industry and purchasers of inferior product. Over a period of more than 10 years the German lawyers appointed by Eric Clapton, and a significant number of other well-known artists and record companies, have successfully pursued thousands of bootleg cases under routine copyright procedures.

It is not the intention to target individuals selling isolated CDs from their own collection, but rather the active bootleggers manufacturing unauthorised copies for sale. In the case of an individual selling unauthorised items from a personal collection, if following receipt of a “cease and desist” letter the offending items are withdrawn, any costs would be minimal, or might be waived.

Eric Clapton's lawyers and management team (rather than Eric personally) identifies if an item offered for sale is illegal, and a declaration confirming that is signed, but thereafter Eric Clapton is not involved in any individual cases, and 95% of the cases are resolved before going to Court.

This case could have been disposed of quickly at minimal cost, but unfortunately in response to the German lawyers' first standard letter, the individual's reply included the line (translation): “feel free to file a lawsuit if you insist on the demands”. This triggered the next step in the standard legal procedures, and the Court then made the initial injunction order.

If the individual had complied with the initial letter the costs would have been minimal. Had she explained at the outset the full facts in a simple phone call or letter to the lawyers, any claim might, have been waived, and costs avoided.

However, the individual appointed a lawyer who appealed the injunction decision. The Judge encouraged the individual to withdraw the appeal to save costs, but she proceeded. The appeal failed and she was ordered to pay the costs of the Court and all of the parties.

However, when the full facts of this particular case came to light and it was clear the individual is not the type of person Eric Clapton, or his record company, wish to target, Eric Clapton decided not to take any further action and does not intend to collect the costs awarded to him by the Court. Also, he hopes the individual will not herself incur any further costs.

Eric Clapton Management
22nd December 2021

I don't know who's crazy enough to go all out on punishing this woman, but I certainly hope it's not Eric Clapton himself. Because that would mean he's not all there anymore.


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