When Courtney Love has her day in court to argue her case against Geffen Records, Inc., she and her attorney won't be able to use a pivotal claim Love has touted since the dispute started over a year ago.
One of Love's key arguments has been that recording artists are unfairly excluded from a labor law provision that allows other entertainment workers, such as actors, to be freed from their contracts after seven years. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Fumiko Wasserman dismissed that argument from the suit on Wednesday, according to a court spokesperson. Wasserman green-lighted Love's other claims of breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud and faulty accounting against Vivendi Universal.
The judge ordered the two opposing parties to attempt to mediate a settlement on June 10. If one is not agreed upon, they'll reconvene the following day in court for a trial call, wherein an actual date for a trial before a jury will be set.
"When we first filed this case, many prognosticators in the music industry said Courtney's suit was frivolous and shrugged it off," said Love's attorney A. Barry Cappello in a statement. "I doubt they feel the same way now. The judge reviewed all of Vivendi Universal's arguments and let the key claims stand. It tried everything it could to get this case thrown out, but it failed. We're ready for trial."
The plaintiffs may not have cause to be so optimistic. Love has hinged her suit on the seven-year contract provision since first filing it as a countersuit in March 2001 (see "Courtney Love Countersuing Label, Organizing Union"), following Geffen suing Hole for the band's failure to deliver seven total LPs as pursuant to their original deal (see "Hole Sued By Geffen Records For Breach Of Contract"). In response to Love's argument that being exempt from the term limit is unfair, the labels contend that their heavy investments in the development and marketing of artists required long-term contracts in order to recoup their expenses.
"We find it amazing that even in defeat, Courtney Love attempts to claim victory," a Universal Music Group spokesperson told Reuters. "All that is left is a 'garden variety' contractual dispute, which pales in comparison to Universal's damages claim for Hole's failure to deliver the albums promised under their contract."
Win or lose, Cappello said he plans to appeal Judge Wasserman's decision to dismiss Love's claim that the amended labor law is unconstitutional when this trial draws to a close. He added that he's prepared to take the dispute to the U.S. Supreme Court if need be.
Love isn't alone in her dissatisfaction with the five-year-old amendment to Labor Code Law 2855, also known as the De Havilland Law, named for actress Olivia De Havilland, who waged a similar war against movie studios in 1945 and won. The Artists Coalition, a group of recording artists including Love, the Eagles' Don Henley and Sheryl Crow, is lobbying for legislation to repeal the provision and pleaded their case before the state senate in January (see "Beck, Deftones, Others Rally For Bill That Could Change Recording Contracts"). They feel that artists should be given free-agent status after serving seven years on a contract.
Of the 15 claims cited in the original lawsuit, four were approved initially and six others had to be later revised before passing legal muster (see "Courtney Love Hits Speed Bump In Label Fight").
A Universal Music Group spokesperson had no comment on the case Friday (May 31), and Love's manager did not return calls by press time.
[This story was updated at 4:32 P.M. EST on 05.31.02.]