Originally published on Advocate.com April 15 2004 12:00 AM ET
Pop star Sophie B. Hawkins found a low-tech way to join the recording industry's ongoing war against music piracy on Tuesday, winning a small claims judgment against a man whom she says was selling pirated copies of her album on eBay. The Grammy-nominated artist won a $346 small claims judgment against the eBay merchant who sold promotional copies of her new CD Wilderness, which is not due in record stores until next week. Hawkins, who scored on Billboard's Music Survey with the hit singles "As I Lay Me Down" in 1992 and "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover" in 1994, told Reuters in an interview that money was not the motivation for taking the matter to court in Santa Monica, Calif. Wilderness is the first album released by her Trumpet Swan Records label, and like any recording mogul, Hawkins felt compelled to protect her intellectual property. She created the album, including the newly released track "Beautiful Girl," in her home studio in Venice, Calif.
"He was just making easy money off something that's my blood and guts," Hawkins said. "I had invested all of my life savings into this record, and he wouldn't stop. He pissed me off." Hawkins added that, unlike major record labels that sometimes sue the very fans they are trying to sell records to, the eBay seller was purely in it for the money and taking advantage of her fans. "I want to thank my fans because they really protected me when this started happening," she said. "They are the ones who got ripped off. One person had to pay $300 for a (Wilderness) CD that didn't even have the artwork." Los Angeles superior court judge Roberta Kyman ruled in Hawkins's favor on Tuesday after the eBay seller failed to show up in court, a court clerk said. Hawkins said she planned to return the money to fans who bought the CDs on eBay, then buy them authorized copies of Wilderness after it is released on April 20.
The "omnisexual" singer first learned from fans in December that a promotional copy of the CD was listed on eBay for $300 and that additional copies were being sold. EBay shut down the online auction of the CDs after she alerted the company that the copies were not intended for sale. The seller contacted buyers independently and sold two more copies for $12 each, even after receiving a warning from her attorneys, she said. Wilderness is Hawkins's fourth album, following Tongues and Tails in 1992, Whaler in 1994, and 1999's Timbre. (Reuters)