Love Wins Nirvana Song Suit

Injunction could hold up release of Nirvana box set

June 29, 2001 12:00 AM ET

A Seattle judge granted Courtney Love an injunction that would bar the release of a previously unavailable Nirvana song and hold up the release of a Nirvana box set. Judge Robert H. Alsdorf of the Superior Court of Washington for King County ruled in favor of Love's request for a preliminary injunction, which also seeks to bar surviving Nirvana members Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic from transacting any business on behalf of the band, effectively dissolving Nirvana L.L.C., the company that consists of Love (represented by a personal attorney), Grohl and Novoselic. The partnership had been formed in 1997 to manage the affairs of Nirvana.

The song -- often referred to as "On the Mountain" and "You've Got No Right" -- was written by the late Kurt Cobain with Nirvana in 1994, before his death in April of that year, and was to be included on a forty-five-track Nirvana box set due October 23rd. The request for an injunction refers to the track as "potential hit of extraordinary artistic and commercial value." The release of the box set is set to coincide with the ten-year anniversary of the band's landmark major-label debut, Nevermind. The song, dubbed "You Know You're Right" for the box set, had been performed by Nirvana in concert in 1993 as well as by Love's band Hole.

Love argues that Nirvana was the single vision of Cobain and therefore should fall under Love's authority as the sole owner of his legacy and estate. The suit names Novoselic, Grohl, Nirvana L.L.C. and Universal Music Group. Love claims that a preliminary injunction was necessary to protect her legal rights and an immediate infringement upon them with the release of the box set. She charges Novoselic with threatening to erase master tapes of Nirvana recordings and finally claims that she entered into the partnership with Grohl and Noveselic at a time when she was still "emotionally overwrought and distraught" over Cobain's suicide an unable to enter into any legal agreements.

In a written response to Love's request for a preliminary injunction bassist Krist Noveselic refuted many of Love's claims. He writes, "When making decisions for the L.L.C., I am guided by a simple thought, 'What would Kurt think?'" Novoselic contends that Love is not guided by the same principle saying, "Here's my dilemma in a nutshell: Courtney wants control of Nirvana so she can leverage deals that benefit her career." In regards to the box set, Novoselic charges Love with bringing the injunction about specifically to gain leverage in her suit with Universal Music Group, the parent company of Nirvana and Hole's label Geffen Records.

The next step in the legal wrangle is a court date set for September 2002, a year after the intended release date of the Nirvana box set, but according to each side's attorneys, both parties are hoping to reach an agreement before then.

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