Love sued her record label to get out of her contract and spotlight what she called unfair treatment of artists. Her lawsuit claimed she, like many other musicians, was coerced into signing away her rights--including ownership of her music--and essentially signing herself away for the rest of her music career.
The terms of the settlement will pay big bucks for everyone involved, while leaving behind the artists Love claimed to be fighting for. Universal gets the rights to release a Nirvana greatest-hits album and box set, with Love getting a seven-figure advance for the records. Love is also emancipated from her record contract, and she gains ownership of several unreleased original Hole recordings.
Love also settled another acrimonious lawsuit last week with the surviving members of Nirvana over the rights to the cash cow known as the Nirvana catalog. Though terms were not disclosed, the legal battle did get a bit testy at times: At one point, lawyers for Dave Grohl and Krist Novoselic asked the judge to force Love to undergo a psychiatric examination to assess her mental stability.
Alas, that's all over, and Courtney has finally bid adieu to her lawyers--for now. But the movement she claimed to champion--seeking better contracts and health benefits for musicians (Love complained to a California State Senate committee last year that the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which serves as a de facto union for some musicians, "doesn't negotiate our interests in terms of health care. I can get six days of rehab, maybe")--seems to have been abandoned in the process.
Of course, Love says she will continue to champion artists' rights. But carrying on the fight after settling the lawsuit is like continuing negotiations after releasing all the hostages. She lost her leverage. For a time, Love had her adversaries by the short--and-curlies. Now, she's made herself something Courtney Love never wanted to be--infinitely ignorable.
The settlement left me feeling like a sucker. I covered Love's testimony in California last year, when she made her pitch for musicians' rights. And despite some of my better instincts, I actually believed she had a cause.
Courtney Love is charming, manipulative, and for those patient enough to sort through her ramblings, incredibly intelligent. Perhaps it was that strange combination of working-girl-style trashy refinement and raw energy, so out of place in the stuffy surroundings of the California State Senate, that captivated me. Maybe I was just being stupid and starstruck. But listening to her, I actually believed that, while she might not have gotten into this fight for the little, unsigned bands she claimed to be fighting for, she might just be stubborn enough to carry her fight through to the bitter end. If nothing else, I thought, she just might do it to spite the bastards who wouldn't let her out of her record deal.
"I could end up being the music industry's worst nightmare: a smart gal with a fat bank account who is unafraid to go down in flames fighting for a principle," Love once told the Los Angeles Times. "I'm ready to take this thing all the way to the Supreme Court."
In a brief e-mail exchange after her California testimony, I asked Love if she saw herself as the music industry's Curt Flood. Flood was a St. Louis Cardinals outfielder who challenged baseball's monopolistic labor laws. While Flood died destitute, his court victory brought an era of free agency--and multi-million-dollar salaries--to professional baseball. "I know who Curt Flood is and I'm not planning on being him," Love told me, "because he got fucked."
That should have been a clue.
At least now, with her newfound label freedom and untold millions coming her way from the Nirvana greatest-hits album and box set, perhaps she can finally afford to settle up her unpaid magazine tab down at Pike Place Market's Read All About It newsstand, and finally, for once, do the right thing for the little guy.