A 55-year-old German widow was cleaning the house and stumbled upon an Eric Clapton CD from thirty years ago that her husband purchased at a department store back in 1987. Not wanting it anymore, she listed it on eBay for €9.95, which is about CAD$14.
For some reason, Clapton was trolling German eBay and noticed it. He then sued the woman in a Düsseldorf court, pointing out that this was a bootleg and was thus illegal.
The woman said she had no idea that the CD was a bootleg, given that (a) she didn’t buy it, (b) it was one of the high-quality, good-looking bootlegs that were widely available because of a German copyright loophole back in the 80s, and (c) isn’t a Clapton fan. She appealed the injunction, but the court didn’t care.
Even though the CD was never sold and removed from eBay, the woman now has to pay legal fees of US$3,500. Should she continue to keep the listing up on eBay, she could face US$283,000 in fines and six months in jail.
UPDATE: Yesterday (December 22), Clapton’s management kinda sort expressed regret for what happened. They released a statement to Clapton’s fanclub. (Via Variety)
“[W]hen 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.
“It is not the intention to target individuals selling isolated CDs from their own collection, but rather the active bootleggers manufacturing unauthorized copies for sale. In the case of an individual selling unauthorized items from a personal collection, if following receipt of a ‘cease and desist’ letter the offending items are withdrawn, any costs would be minimal, or might be waived. … 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.’
“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…
“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.”
Bullshit lawyer-speak. Any publicist will tell you that this was handled horrifically and will end up staining Clapton further. Clapton–who has a personal net worth of US$450 million–need to fire those lawyers immediately.