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Axl Rose sued by bandmates over copyrights

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  • Axl Rose sued by bandmates over copyrights

    Duff, Slash Gunning for Axl

    by Charlie Amter
    Aug 25, 2005, 7:05 AM PT

    The bad blood among the ex-members of Guns N' Roses has boiled over into a federal case.

    Duff McKagan and Slash filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles Aug. 17 against Guns ringleader Axl Rose, accusing their former frontman of trying to cheat them out of royalties to the song catalog of the iconic band.

    Duff and Slash, now part of Velvet Revolver, say they are still partners with Rose when it comes to the old Guns tunes like "Sweet Child O' Mine" and "Welcome to the Jungle." They contend that Rose, without their consent, signed a multimillion-dollar publishing deal with U.K.-based Sanctuary Group earlier this year that included the lucrative Guns N' Roses back catalog.

    Because of Rose's "arrogance and ego," per the suit, he has failed to "acknowledge the contributions of his former bandmates in [creating] some of rock's greatest hits."

    "Rose's actions were malicious, fraudulent and oppressive, and undertaken in conscious disregard of [Slash and Duff's] property rights." They say that a $92,000 royalty check covering the first quarter of 2005 went directly to Rose "and his accomplices," instead of being split three ways. Guns N' Roses' catalog is worth about $500,000 per year, according to the suit.

    The former Gunners are accusing Rose of fraud, copyright infringement and breach of fiduciary duty.

    Deke Arlon, chairman of Sanctuary's publishing division, told E! Online he couldn't discuss the dust-up because "the matter is subject to legal hearings." But Rose's lawyer, Howard Weitzman, says the suit is the result of a misunderstanding. Weitzman tells the Los Angeles Times that Rose's deal only covered his portion of the royalties and the $92,000 check cited in the lawsuit was an overpayment due to a clerical error.

    The original members of the Los Angeles band drifted apart in the mid-1990s--leaving the band's legacy in dispute. Rose was eventually awarded rights to the Guns N' Roses moniker and continues to play (or not play, as is more often the case) under the GNR banner. But Duff and McKagan sued Rose in April 2004 to determine control of the back catalog.

    That breach-of-contract lawsuit, which is still pending, specifically alleges Rose unilaterally blocked the others from licensing Guns music for movie soundtracks, effectively shutting off potential revenue streams to Slash and Duff. The duo claimed Rose "whimsically refuses to license Guns and Roses Music" even though he, they allege, dropped out of the partnership in 1995.

    Even with the feuding, the band's studio albums have all gone multiplatinum, and Guns' songs are still among the most requested in the publishing biz. The band's tunes recently turned up--along with Rose's vocal acting talents--in 2004's biggest videogame release, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

    What hasn't turned up is Rose's forever-in-the-works album, Chinese Democracy, with his revamped version of Guns N' Roses.

    Earlier this year, the New York Times ran a lengthy feature examining how the seemingly mythical Chinese Democracy has failed to surface, despite being finessed in various studios for the better part of the last decade. The article concluded that the delay was due in part to Rose's fabled eccentric and reclusive nature.

    In response to the March article, Sanctuary Group CEO Merck Mercuriadis fired off a vitriolic letter to the Times, saying Rose will "have the last laugh" and that the singer is simply a "soft target for the sort of rubbish you have chosen to print."

    Last we heard, Sanctuary was aiming for a late November release date for Democracy, but that was before the label's financial problems became public. The company is said to be heavily burdened by debt and is struggling to survive.

    Despite their open feuding, Duff, Slash and Rose did manage to reunite last year to sue Universal to block the release of Guns N' Roses Greatest Hits. The band lost, and the album wound up debuting at number three on the Billboard 200 and ultimately sold over 2 million copies.

    "Can't buy what I want because it's free...
    Can't buy what I want because it's free..."
    -- Pearl Jam, from the single Corduroy

  • #2
    What hasn't turned up is Rose's forever-in-the-works album, Chinese Democracy, with his revamped version of Guns N' Roses.
    Current cost is over $10M, making it the most expensive album to produce ever, and reports have it no where near close to release.