Courtney Love, Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic continue to bump heads about a lot of things, but attorneys for both sides say all three musicians think the unreleased Nirvana song “You Know You’re Right” should be in the hands of the band’s fans. They’re aiming to issue it on a Nirvana best-of collection by the end of the year, and the compilation will be followed by a box set of rarities, then a single best-of-the-box CD.
That’s if all goes well. If all does not go well, we may not get anything, as efforts to release the material could be thwarted by ongoing legal battles, keeping “You Know You’re Right” and the box set songs under lock and key for some time (see “Who Speaks For Nirvana? Grohl, Novoselic Lash Out At Courtney Love”).
The latest chapter in the saga of how to handle Nirvana’s legacy involves a proposal Love made to Grohl and Novoselic last January on how to split up decision-making power. Details have recently surfaced about how she wants to replace the existing agreement she signed in 1997, which determined Nirvana-related issues would be handled by an equal three-way partnership.
Here’s why Love wants to dissolve the current agreement (Nirvana L.L.C.):
* She says it is non-functional. It was formed to make Nirvana a democracy, but since Grohl has sided with Novoselic on every decision so far, the L.L.C. has been a “closed unit operating without Love’s input or consideration of her views,” her attorney O. Yale Lewis says.
* Grohl and Novoselic have employed their personal accountant, business manager and lawyer to fill the same roles for the L.L.C, which Love feels is an inherent conflict of interest.
* The former Nirvana members breached the contract by planning to deliver unreleased material to Universal Music Group without her consent. The L.L.C. agreement specifies that all decisions regarding Nirvana releases require unanimity.
Love’s settlement proposal differs significantly from the L.L.C. agreement, and would basically give her control over all things Nirvana after 10 years. According to her proposal:
* For the next 10 years, no new Nirvana songs could be released until Grohl, Novoselic and Cobain’s estate (as represented by Love) unanimously agree to issue them. The proposal doesn’t state who will gain rights to the material thereafter.
* Cobain’s estate would administer all licensing of the band’s songs and recordings for commercials and films in North America, but Grohl and Novoselic would have veto rights for the next 10 years. Again, it is not clear what would happen after that time.
* Cobain’s estate would have authority over any documentary films that incorporate the name, likeness or image of the late Nirvana frontman and/or any songs he wrote.
* Love would be responsible for selecting L.L.C. lawyers, business managers and other professionals, but for the next 10 years, no business manager or attorney representing Cobain’s daughter Francis Bean Cobain, Courtney Love or the Kurt Cobain estate can be hired without the consent of either Grohl or Novoselic.
Shortly after receiving Love’s proposal, Grohl and Novoselic sent her a letter saying they would not respond to the offer.
“It is not a serious proposal and would simply give Courtney Love total control over Nirvana,” said a statement from Grohl and Novoselic’s lawyers. “Dave and Krist are certainly not going to let that happen.”
Attorneys for the ex-Nirvana members are getting ready to send Love a counterproposal. The details are still being finalized, but it will likely state that since Love agreed to the initial L.L.C. agreement, it should remain in full effect, said Grohl and Novoselic’s lawyer Michael Moore.
Love filed her suit against Grohl, Novoselic and Nirvana L.L.C. in May 2001.
O. Yale Lewis said his client is so adamant about having full control over unpublished Nirvana material because she is Cobain’s heir, and according to federal copyright law has full rights of first publication to all of the band’s unreleased material.
Moore scoffed at this claim, stating that Love owns the copyright of Nirvana lyrics and words, but not the performances.
“Love’s position is basically like saying an individual that designs architectural plans for a home owns every home or building built off those plans,” he said. “Courtney clearly owns the copyrights to Kurt’s songs, but she doesn’t own the actual performances the band created based upon those songs.”
So while both sides continue to bicker, Nirvana fans will keep waiting for “You Know You’re Right.”
“There’s always a possibility that the song will be out this year if Ms. Love becomes rational and drops the suit,” said Moore. “Krist and Dave want nothing more than to get the song out there. That was the plan until Courtney sued them.”