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Eric Clapton backs down on collecting legal fees from woman selling bootleg CD on eBay

Eric Clapton performing live
(Image credit: Brian Rasic/WireImage)

Eric Clapton will not pursue collecting the legal fees of a woman he sued for attempting to sell a bootleg CD on eBay.

It emerged last week that following a successful lawsuit from Clapton, the 55-year-old German widow – known as Gabriele P – had been ordered by the Düsseldorf Regional Court to pay court costs for both herself and Clapton, reportedly totaling almost $4,000. The woman had listed the bootleg, Live USA – which her late husband bought from a department store nearly 30 years ago – for €9.95 (~$11).

Now, Clapton’s management has issued a statement in response to the “widespread and often misleading press reports” surrounding the case, adding that the defendant is “not the type of person Eric Clapton, or his record company, wish to target”.

“Over the past decade a number of well-known recording companies and artists, including Clapton, have engaged German lawyers to pursue thousands of bootleg cases flouting the country’s copyright laws,” the statement reads.

“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items from a personal collection, if following receipt of a ‘cease and desist’ letter the offending items are withdrawn, any costs would be minimal, or might be waived.

The statement goes on to emphasize that it’s Clapton’s lawyers and management – “rather than Eric personally” – that identify whether an item offered for sale is illegal. It says that after Clapton signs a declaration confirming the sale of an illegal item, he is “not involved in any individual cases, and 95% of the cases are resolved before going to court”.

It continues: “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.”

The statement goes on to clarify that the woman “appointed a lawyer who appealed the injunction decision”, and that “the judge encouraged the individual to withdraw the appeal to save costs, but she proceeded”. After losing the appeal, the woman was subsequently ordered to pay both her and Clapton’s court costs.

“When the full facts of this particular case came to light… 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,” the statement concludes.

Gabriele P reportedly faces either a €250,000 fine or six-month prison sentence if she continues her efforts to sell the album.

Earlier this week, Eric Clapton announced he’d co-written a new song, Heart of a Child, with fellow vaccine skeptic and Italian architect Robin Monotti, which reportedly takes aim at lockdowns, vaccines, and other measures related to COVID-19.

In November, blues great Robert Cray said he’d ended his friendship with Eric Clapton over Clapton's likening of COVID-19-related lockdowns to slavery in his 2020 Van Morrison collaboration, Stand and Deliver.

“I’d just rather not associate with somebody who’s on the extreme and being so selfish,” the bluesman reasoned.

Sam Roche

Sam is a Staff Writer at Guitar World, also creating content for Total Guitar, Guitarist and Guitar Player. He has well over 15 years of guitar playing under his belt, as well as a degree in Music Technology (Mixing and Mastering). He's a metalhead through and through, but has a thorough appreciation for all genres of music. In his spare time, Sam creates point-of-view guitar lesson videos on YouTube under the name Sightline Guitar.