Suit filed over Beatles bootlegs
EmptyNEW YORK -- Apple Corps and Apple Records have filed a federal lawsuit in Miami in an attempt to stop bootleg recordings from the Star-Club in Germany from being released to the public.
One of the defendants, Jeffrey Collins, tried to release the recordings several years ago before he was sentenced to probation for violating sound recording piracy law in connection with non-Beatles recordings, Apple claims.
The suit, filed in the federal District Court in Miami, names as defendants Fuego Entertainment, Fuego-Echo Music Group, Echo Vista, Fuego CEO Hugo Cancio and Collins.
In a January press release, Fuego announced it had acquired 15 tracks of previously unreleased performances of the Beatles at the Star-Club in Hamburg, Germany, that were made just before the group signed its record deal with EMI's Parlophone in 1962, the suit claims.
The Beatles did perform at the club just one month before the band signed its record deal. But the contract with the club did not permit any recording, the complaint says, and no one with the band ever gave permission to record their performances.
Apple said the recordings have already proven to be bootlegs. In 1991, Apple sued Sony Music Entertainment in New York to stop release of some Star-Club recordings. Sony agreed to a consent order not to release certain recordings after hearing testimony from band members.
One of Apple's attorneys in the current suit recalls George Harrison's deposition testimony in that Sony suit.
Paul LiCalsi, a partner with Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp in New York, said: "George said it best." Harrison testified that "'the recordings were a rip-off of the Beatles. No one asked us or paid us any royalties. Kids walk into record stores thinking they're getting something of quality, but it's unlistenable,' " LiCalsi recalled.
Apple claims this is not the first time that Collins tried to release Beatles recordings without permission. He was sentenced to three years' probation in 1996 on a criminal plea of violating New Jersey's sound recording piracy law in connection with non-Beatles recordings, the complaint alleges.
Shortly before that criminal sentencing in 1995, Collins tried to manufacture and distribute 15 Beatles performances at the Star-Club, the suit says. In response to Apple's cease-and-desist letters, Collins acknowledged that he could not release the album without their permission, the complaint says.
"Apple does not own the rights to the tape," Collins said. "They're trying to bully us into giving up the masters, which they have no right to. The group is called the Beatles. We haven't used the trade name – we haven't released it. We just made it known to the public that this tape is available."
The Fuego press release claims it acquired rights through an association with Collins, the suit says.
Several years after the Sony suit, Apple again stopped release of Star-Club recordings after bringing a lawsuit in England's High Court of Justice against Lingasong Music.
Apple is suing for infringement of common law copyright, trademark, unfair competition name and likeness, and performance rights. They seek an injunction and damages of at least $10 million.
Fuego Entertainment could not be reached for comment.