Eric Clapton Pretends To Regret The Decision To Sue Random German Woman Who Listed A Bootleg Of One Of His CDs On Ebay

from the copyright-is-broken dept

There is no greater example of just how totally broken copyright is than the story of Eric Clapton suing — and winning — a poor German woman for copyright infringement after she listed (but did not sell) a bootleg CD that her late husband had purchased in a store. The woman had no idea it was a bootleg. She just knew that she had the CD and wanted to sell it, so she put it on eBay. Eric Clapton — who has been a despicably awful human being for decades — sued her over this and won. He won, despite the fact that (1) she hadn’t bought the CD, and was just selling her late husband’s CD, (2) she had no idea it wasn’t authorized, (3) she didn’t actually sell it, as she quickly pulled down the listing, and (4) it was just one damn CD and she listed it for less than $12. And not only that, under German copyright law, she was told she also needed to pay Clapton’s legal fees.

Lots of people (reasonably) got mad about Clapton for pursuing this case, and we’ll get to that in a moment, but you should also be furious about copyright laws. Because that’s what makes this sort of absolute nonsense not just possible, but plainly encouraged.

We’ve pointed out in the past that one of the biggest problems of copyright in the internet age is that it was designed for a time when “infringement” generally had to mean deliberate attempts by commercial entities to copy someone else’s work and profit off of it. The internet has laid bare just how unfit for purpose copyright is by suddenly turning us all into lawbreakers many times over every single day. At that point, it should be obvious that it’s the law that’s the main problem.

However, as we highlighted in a guest post a few years back, copyright hung on as relevant for a few decades in part because of the concept of “copyright toleration,” in which the vast, vast majority of those daily infringements were ignored by rights holders. However, as that article has detailed, we’ve seen increasingly less “toleration” these days, which explains things like the nonsense demands for universal upload filters by the music industry.

But, still, there remains some discretion in all of this, and that’s where Eric Clapton is still very much at fault. After this story came out, shortly before Christmas, and went viral with lots of people trashing Clapton for such nonsense, his team, trying to do a bit of damage control put up a statement trying to justify what happened. It’s… not particularly convincing.

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.

So, it starts out with “the bootleggers made me do it.” And also a whiff of “well, the lawyers just kinda went off and did their own thing.” Which doesn’t actually help matters. When lawyers file lawsuits on your behalf, it’s still on your behalf and you’re still responsible for what they do. They represent you. If you don’t like how they represent you, well, that’s your problem.

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.

So, this is Clapton distancing himself from the lawsuit. Except, again, the lawyers file it on his behalf and in his name. You can’t dismiss it so easily like that. If its other people doing it, then get better people. Also, a lot of this sounds like blaming the woman for not just settling up front. It’s very copyright troll-like in its wording. “If only you had given in to our bullying up front, none of this would have happened.” It’s playing victim that the woman didn’t just roll over when Clapton’s legal team sent its ridiculous threat letter.

And, again, if this was not who they intended to target, they could have stopped the case at any point, rather than push it forward. But they just kept pushing it forward. Indeed, again the statement blames the woman for responding in a dismissive fashion to their original cease-and-desist:

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.

Note the passive voice here: “this triggered.” No, it “triggered” nothing. Apparently, the lawyers who Clapton hired decided to punish this woman because her reply was snarky, and filed a lawsuit because she listed a single CD on eBay. Again, take some responsibility.

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.

More victim blaming. The entire whiny response is just blaming the victim over and over and over again. Then they blame her again for appealing the original injunction, which she was free to do because to anyone looking at the facts of the case, the whole thing seemed ridiculous. But Clapton blames her for appealing:

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.

It was only after all this bad publicity (and a chance to spend 7 paragraphs victim blaming), that Clapton’s management says he won’t take any further action. But even then, the letter does so in a way that still suggests that the woman is to blame if any more costs accrue:

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.

Notice also what’s missing: there is no apology. There is no admission of doing anything wrong at all. There is only blaming the woman, the use of a passive voice, and trying to pass the buck from Clapton — in whose name and copyrights this was done — and arguing that it’s all these lawyers’ fault. The lawyers Eric Clapton hired to file lawsuits on his behalf.

Copyright is broken and it’s a problem, but people like Eric Clapton demonstrate just how messed up the law is with nonsense like this.

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Comments on “Eric Clapton Pretends To Regret The Decision To Sue Random German Woman Who Listed A Bootleg Of One Of His CDs On Ebay”

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PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Clapton has revealed himself as a pro-plaguer, the the moron above has apparently decided that any criticism of him on unrelated subjects must be a punishment for this and not an unrelated issue.

This is where some people are – basic morals and infectious diseases are now partisan political issues, and you have to be 100% on either side of the partisan wall. Subtlety, nuance, facts are not allowed, you have to pick a side and fight to the death. Literally, in the case of disease.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
TFG says:

Re: Re:

…No, no, this is entirely about copyright, and suing, etc.

Eric Clapton is a rich musician who came down like a ton of bricks on a random German woman because she listed a CD for sale to the tune of $12.

Copyright law makes this possible, and results in oppression of the general public by the copyright holders, especially those who decided to be assholes about it, like Eric Clapton and his legal team decided to be.

I haven’t the foggiest what the Greenpass oppression is, but in this particular case, Clapton decided to be the oppressor, and the oppressed is the German woman. Anything else is a red herring.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

"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. "

Well you are paying them way to fucking much skippy because thats exactly what the fuck you did.
Please publish your ‘cease and desist letter’ if you are so on the up and up and you are the victim not the lady you dragged into court over a single fscking cd.
Willing to bet – the demands were insane which added to the feeling it wasn’t a real thing but yet another scammer making use of the fear of the german courts.

"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."

Photogenic and someone the average person could identify with & make people hate you even more?
You went batshit over a SINGLE fscking CD & the fact the law allowed you & then made an innocent who had no idea it wasn’t a shitty copy of your music pay for the pleasure of being targeted and blamed for harming your income…

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

'Why do you make me hit you like this?'

Ah good old victim blaming, ‘We had to try to ruin her life over a single CD, she made us do it!’

No, no she did not, and trying to shift the blame to your lawyers while at the same time you blame her for what her lawyer did… adding blatant hypocrisy into the mix is not helping you there Eric.

Anonymous Coward says:

"The idea that bootleggers exist means we had absolutely no choice but to go after not the bootleggers, but someone with even less means of fighting back. Also she was a big meanie poopoo pants to our legal team so of course we couldn’t help but nail her to the fucking wall. Poor us!"

It’s fair to say that if this doesn’t convince anyone that copyright law is entirely fucked up, odds are they don’t have much of a soul.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

For years now I’ve held to the idea that the only people who respect copyright law as it currently stands are those that either know little to nothing about it or those that have a financial stake it in being the way it is and I don’t think I’ve seen a counter example yet.

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BernardoVerda (profile) says:

The lady made just one mistake...

She should have sold it as a precious artifact of historical history, rather than merely as a musical recording (and asked at ten times as much for it).

In fact, this whole legal scuffle has likely made this little piece of history even more valuable — I wonder how much she could get for it now, marketing it as the actual piece of vinyl that Clapton’s lawsuit was supposedly about?

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