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Geffen Records Prevails Over Axl Rose Lawsuit - 16h March 2004

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A federal judge on Monday cleared the way for Geffen Records to release a greatest-hits album next week from the rock band Guns N' Roses over the objection of its lead singer, Axl Rose.

Rose sued Geffen, a unit of Universal Music Group under Vivendi Universal, seeking to prevent the best-of collection from being released, claiming he was not consulted on the choice or remixing of material for the album.

He was joined as a plaintiff in the suit, filed last Friday, by two band members from the original lineup -- guitarist Slash and bassist Duff McKagan -- even though their rights to the Guns N' Roses name was signed over to Rose years ago when they left the group.

But U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer denied their request for a temporary restraining order, allowing Geffen to issue the album as planned next Tuesday. A hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction was set for next month.

"Their lawsuit is meritless," Universal Music spokesman Peter LoFrumento said. "Fortunately, since the court has denied their application for a temporary restraining order, the album will be released as scheduled on March 23."

According to the lawsuit, Rose objected to the selection of songs for the compilation album, the timing of its release, the album's artwork and the re-mastering of the original tapes.

The album features 14 tracks in all and eight of Guns N' Roses' hit singles, including "Welcome to the Jungle, "Paradise City" and "Sweet Child O' Mine" from the mega-selling 1987 album "Appetite for Destruction."

The group's last studio album, "The Spaghetti Incident?," was issued in 1993. A 2002 MTV appearance by a reconstituted Guns N' Roses, with Rose as the lone member from the band's heyday, helped spark interest in the group's new lineup, but a subsequent U.S. tour was cut short.

The suit, which accuses Geffen of trademark infringement and breach of contract, says the label is barred under its contract with Guns N' Roses from altering its master recordings without the band's permission.

A statement from Rose's manager added that the greatest-hits set "will hinder the release of the band's long-awaited new studio album, 'Chinese Democracy."'

Geffen officials had no further comment on the dispute. But a source familiar with the situation said the label has been waiting seven years for Rose to deliver "Chinese Democracy" and has poured $13 million into production of that album after repeated promises that he was about to finish the project.

"Every year there's been a new reason why Axl is not done with the record," the source told Reuters, adding that Geffen went ahead with the greatest-hits package only because Rose failed to come through with "Chinese Democracy." "Had he delivered this record like he promised seven years ago, this would not be happening right now."

A representative for Rose was not immediately available for comment.