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
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now defunct file-trading site; the order was later rescinded.