Eric Clapton copyright controversy: beware of crushing the underdog

Possessing IP rights gives the rightsholder a way of enforcing their ownership against the world. Although this is a powerful tool against the unauthorised exploitation of another’s intellectual property, it can also be seen as excessive in certain situations. Such a situation arose when Eric Clapton sought to protect the copyright in a German court against a woman who has attempted to sell an illegal copy of his CD. It contained music from his 1985 concert.

The CD in question had been purchased from a store by the woman’s late husband and she was unaware that the CD was an article or infringement or that she had infringed Eric Clapton’s copyright. As a layperson, the woman in question felt affronted by Eric Clapton’s German legal team who sought and won their injunction against her. However, the overall media coverage of the matter was not favourable to Eric Clapton, and he decided to waive the legal costs that the German court had asked her to pay (£2,889.00).

Eric Clapton clarified that the enforcement of his IP rights usually targeted individuals/entities that mass manufacture his work illegally on a large scale and not individuals in respect of a £8.95 bootleg CD. Under German law, the woman could have been liable for a fine of up to £212,353.00 or six months in prison if she insisted on selling the illegal CD in question.

If you have any questions relating to protecting your copyright or preventing liability arising under UK copyright law, please contact our IP department at Lawdit Solicitors on 02380235979.

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