When a German woman listed an Eric Clapton CD on eBay over the summer, she thought the rock music purchased by her late husband decades earlier could fetch her around $11 in the online marketplace if she was lucky.
Instead, it somehow got the attention of Clapton, who sued the woman for copyright infringement and accused her of selling a bootleg CD of one of his live shows from the 1980s. Now, the 55-year-old widow, who did not sell the CD and said she did not know it was a bootleg, owes thousands of dollars in court fees.
A German judge on Wednesday sided with Clapton in his lawsuit, ordering that the woman known only as “Gabriele P.” pay nearly $4,000 in court costs for copyright infringement, according to the German news outlet DW.
The woman, who lives in Ratingen, a small German town about an hour outside Cologne, contended her late husband bought the CD, “Eric Clapton — Live USA,” at a department store in 1987, DW reported. She told the court she did not know she was infringing copyright when she listed the bootleg recording of one of Clapton’s concerts on eBay for 9.95 euros, or about $11.20. The CD was listed for one day before it was removed.
But a judge with the Düsseldorf regional court rejected the woman’s appeal this week, saying it did not matter that she did not purchase the CD or know it was an illegal recording, reported the German newspaper Bild.
The court also ruled that if she tried to sell the Clapton bootleg again, she could face up to six years in prison or a fine of nearly $282,000.
Klaus Günther, the woman’s attorney, did not immediately return a request for comment Friday. He told Bild that she planned to “appeal again.”
A spokesperson for Clapton did not immediately return a request for comment. Michael Eaton, Clapton’s business manager, told The Washington Post last month that “given the depressingly bad standard of journalism reflected in certain recent articles, Eric Clapton has no desire at the moment to engage with the US Press.” Eaton told the Guardian that “Germany is a country where sales of bootleg and counterfeit CDs are rife.”
“Along with a number of other major artists and record companies, over a number of years Eric Clapton has, through German lawyers, successfully pursued hundreds of bootleg cases in the German courts under routine German copyright procedures,” Eaton said.
The legal win for the musician comes at a time when Clapton has become one of the most vocal critics of coronavirus safety precautions in the entertainment world. During the course of the pandemic, Clapton has released multiple songs criticizing lockdowns, conducted a lengthy interview with vaccine skeptics and pledged to perform only where fans would not be required to be vaccinated.
Clapton’s turn against vaccination and COVID-19 restrictions has left many friends and fans puzzled and frustrated.
“Nobody I’ve talked to that knows Eric has an answer,” drummer Jim Keltner, who has known Clapton for 51 years, told The Post last month. “We’re all in the same boat. We’re all going, ‘I can’t figure it out.’ “
It’s unclear how Clapton, who has sold millions of records during his decorated career, was made aware of a bootleg CD being sold online in Germany in July. Attorneys for the 76-year-old musician sent an affidavit to the Düsseldorf regional court, saying that the illegal recordings featured on the CD were made without Clapton’s consent.
After Clapton’s legal team reached out to the woman, she replied, “I object and ask you not to harass or contact me any further,” according to the Guardian. She also allegedly told Clapton’s legal team that they should “feel free to file a lawsuit if you insist on the demands.”
“They told me Eric Clapton had complained,” she told Bild in November. “My husband bought the CD in a department store, not somewhere under the counter.”
Yet the judge ruled this week that she will need to pay about $3,800 in legal costs for her and Clapton.
“Costs are usually minimal unless the case is argued in court, which is what happened here as the lady instructed her own lawyers,” Eaton said to the Guardian. “Now that the full facts of this particular case have come to light, the intention is that the formal German proceedings will not be pursued any further.”
Gunther, the woman’s lawyer, has vowed to take the copyright infringement case to the European Court of Justice, the European Union’s top court.
The Washington Post’s Geoff Edgers contributed to this report.