Love writes Epitaph as court OKs suit

Hole singer countersues U, to record for indie label

Courtney Love is in the process of setting up shop with Epitaph Records as her lawsuit against Geffen Records and Universal Music Group moves through the courts.

Leader of the band Hole, Love won the right Wednesday to file a countersuit against Universal, which sued her in January 2000 seeking damages for five undelivered albums after she said she would no longer record for the company.

Love has been working on her writing privately and has taken acting gigs, but has not been in the studio for some time. She intends to do some recording soon, although it’s not clear if it will result in an album or, if it does, whether it is a Hole disc, a Love solo album or another entity.

Epitaph, an indie punk rock label that had considerable success with Tom Waits’ return to recording in 1999, has expressed an interest in releasing whatever Love hands in.

In her court battle, Love intends to invoke a California statute that prevents entertainers from being tied to any company for more than seven years. The law was instituted 50 years ago after thesp Olivia de Havilland waged a legal battle to free actors from long-term studio deals.

Unreleased Nirvana

The widow of Nirvana guitarist-singer-songwriter Kurt Cobain, Love said there are unreleased Nirvana songs that she hopes Epitaph will release. Love controls much of the Nirvana catalog along with Cobain’s mother and sister. Nirvana also was a Geffen act.

Buoyed by the U.K. press after their overseas performances in 1991, Hole was one of the most sought-after acts upon their return to the U.S. Hole signed with Geffen in 1992 as Dollhead Inc., a legal partnership between Love and guitarist Eric Erlandson. Hole’s membership beyond the duo has changed several times as they have released two albums, 1994’s “Live Through This” and 1998’s “Celebrity Skin.”

Geffen Records was merged with Interscope and A&M Universal purchased Polygram. Love contends Geffen Records provided unique services to artists and the shuttering of Geffen rendered her contract void.

“The recording industry continues to intimidate artists who try to terminate a contract with a recording company after seven years by suing them for future damages in the form of lost profits,” said A. Barry Cappello, who represents Love. “We’re out to prove that this is patently inconsistent with the provisions allowed by state law.”

In court documents filed at Los Angeles County Superior Court, Vivendi Universal, which owns Universal Music, called Love’s lawsuit a “meritless, inflammatory diatribe.”

Most boilerplate record company contracts state that artists will deliver seven albums in seven years, though no diskery releases albums that quickly.

A similar battle was fought by Prince in the mid-1990s when Warner Bros. refused to release his albums so close together, despite his turning in master tapes.

U to seek damages

Universal will be asking for damages on five albums that Hole has not delivered, setting a figure that would speculate on their potential sales.

Love said Universal has made $40 million from sales of her band’s albums, while she and band members have collected about $2 million in royalties.

Hole is the second group that has filed suit to leave the Universal fold since the Polygram merger and ensuing Vivendi purchase.

Garbage filed suit in late January to be released from its Almo Sounds contract, invoking a “key man” clause because label head Jerry Moss no longer was with the company.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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