First round to Springsteen in battle over Seventies CD

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The Independent Culture
The battle between Bruce Springsteen, the American rock star, and a British music company went to the High Court yesterday, where a judge refused to strike out the action in which the singer is attempting to prevent early recordings he made in the Seventies being sold as a CD.

The company, Flute International, based in Bristol, and director Robert Tringham, of Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, had hoped to bring together 16 songs under the title Unearthed and promote them as an historic collection of the star's work at the outset of his career.

Mr Springsteen has issued a writ saying that the recordings are unauthorised. The songs have become the subject of a tortured legal wrangle and distribution of the album has been postponed.

However, Flute International and Mr Tringham believe that they bought the songs legitimately from a US-based company, which had acquired them from the producer of the music, who was with Mr Springsteen when he recorded the songs in New York and New Jersey in 1971 and 1972.

Tony Morris, solicitor for Flute and Mr Tringham, and who is a specialist in the music industry, denied the allegations of piracy. "This is a very responsible company, with respected and established directors from the music industry," he said. "It has tried to ensure the rights are clear, and is continuing to do so, even though now they have to go through the courts to do that."

He added: "It's not a question of piracy. My clients have tried to do this the right way."

The issue of who owns copyright for early recordings by rock stars has become increasingly contentious in recent years. Many back-catalogues cover music from the Fifties, Sixties and early Seventies, when music contracts were often vague. In the rest of Europe, the law has been streamlined only recently.

Mr Morris said: "I've got Jimi Hendrix cases dating back 15 years. And for every band breaking through now, they'll have done something in the past that increases in value with their fame. Pulp has been going for at least 10 years, but has only recently broken through. What happens to a tape they might have made in a studio a decade ago, that someone finds?"

The company had hoped to sell between 200,000 and 300,000 copies of the Springsteen album in Europe, and it was due for release in Britain this summer. An injunction has been put on the distribution of Unearthed in Germany.

Mr Springsteen has issued a High Court writ against Flute and Mr Tringham for damages over the proposed CD. He is also seeking injunctions restraining them from copying or selling any of the 16 songs on the album.