Axl wasn't using it, so the Offspring decided they would. The Southern California punk group has announced that their upcoming album will be called Chinese Democracy, a name that Guns n' Roses leader Axl Rose has been touting for at least three years as the title of the first new album of Gn'R material in a decade.
"You snooze, you lose," Offspring singer Dexter Holland said. "Axl ripped-off my braids, so I ripped-off his album title." The album, produced by Brendan O'Brien (Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen), is slated for a late spring release.
You'd think that snatching an album title was a no-no, but the Offspring are on pretty solid legal ground, according to a copyright expert. "Trademark law does not come into existence unless the title is used in interstate commerce," according to copyright lawyer and co-author of Musician's Business & Legal Guide," Greg Victoroff, who added that copyright law does not extend to titles.
"[Right now], they're just two ordinary words," Victoroff says. "Under that analysis, it would seem that Guns n' Roses have no right to that title and the Offspring are free to use it in any purpose they wish." He adds that unless Gn'R's label has issued press releases touting the album, or the band has toured extensively under the album's name, then they have no real claim to the "Chinese Democracy."
The still-gestating Gn'R album has been touted in several press releases and mentioned in the release announcing the group's aborted 2002 North American tour, but it has not yet been scheduled for release.
According to Victoroff, trademark law was enacted to protect consumers from being confused, and though both Offspring and Gn'R play hard rock-inspired music, the Offspring should be safe as long as they are clearly named on the album's cover.
While a source close to Guns says a letter from Rose's camp warning the Offspring not to use the album title was sent earlier this year, an Offspring spokesperson denied the existence of such a letter. Neither band's management could be reached for comment at press time.
The Offspring are notorious for their pranks. In another tweak at a pop culture icon, the band sold bootleg Napster t-shirts on their Web site in 2000, drawing a cease-and-desist letter from the now defunct file-trading site; the order was later rescinded.