After a German court sided with Eric Clapton in his case against a widow who had listed her late husband’s bootleg CD on eBay for €9.95, Clapton’s management has stated he will not collect the fine he is owed.
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Following the media attention the case gained for its controversial nature, Clapton’s management issued a statement to his fansite Where’s Eric?. The statement aims to clarify the background of the case, saying: “Germany is one of several countries where sales of unauthorised 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items from a personal collection, if following receipt of a ‘cease and desist’ letter the offending items are withdrawn, any costs would be minimal, or might be waived.”
The statement also aims to clear up who actually trawls eBay for bootleg content. It states that it is Clapton’s lawyers and management team, rather than Clapton personally, that identifies if items for sale are illegal. After signing a declaration that confirms this, Clapton is “not involved in any individual cases.” Additionally, as most sellers comply with initial cease-and-desist letters, “95 per cent” of cases do not head to court.
So why did Clapton’s lawyers pursue the case with the German woman in question? According to the statement, after receiving a cease-and-desist, her reply included the (translated) line: “feel free to file a lawsuit if you insist on the demands.” Clapton’s legal team took her up on her offer, and after her appeal against the initial ruling was rejected, the court issued the injunctive order. This asked her to pay a sum of around €3,400 for both parties’ legal fees, and sets out that she faces either jail time or a fine of €250,000 if she attempts to sell the CD again.
The statement concludes by revealing that “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.”
While the statement implies “the full facts” have only just now come to light, the background of the case had been reported in the German newspaper Bild back in November. The woman told the press at the time that the CD had been purchased by her late husband in a department store in 1987. The woman’s lawyer also accused Clapton’s legal team at the time of “shooting sparrows with cannons.”
The controversy is the latest in a turbulent year for Clapton, who has seen widespread criticism from around the world of music for his anti-vaccine and anti-lockdown views.