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"It's ugly — the guy's hand is virtually coming out of the television set." — Bono, on televangelists

New U2 Songs Feared Stolen

French police investigate loss of disc which could cost band 10m
The Guardian
Rock superstars U2 were counting the cost of a carelessly misplaced CD yesterday, after a disc containing songs from their forthcoming album disappeared during a photoshoot in Nice.

French police have launched a major investigation amid fears it may have been stolen to order by bootleggers to make pirate copies, potentially costing the band and their record company millions of pounds in lost revenue.

So far detectives have interviewed more than 20 people, including hairdressers and photographers, who were at the photoshoot in the Victorine studios on Tuesday afternoon.

The missing CD belonged to the group's lead guitarist, Edge. It was not clear yesterday exactly where he had left it, but in a statement released on the band's website he said: "A large slice of two years' work lifted via a piece of round plastic. It doesn't seem credible but that's what's just happened to us...and it was my CD."

The band had only recently completed much of the recording of the new album in Dublin. They were in France for the photoshoot and to complete post-production work in Nice, where lead singer, Bono, has a house.

Following the disappearance, the band's drummer, Larry Mullen, and Edge were pictured going into a police station near the studio.

Guy Sapata, the police officer in charge of the case in Nice, said that the investigation was ongoing.

"We have already inspected the site where the photoshoot took place, a private studio in Nice, and have interviewed the 20 or so people who were present at the time the CD went missing."

He said that as well as the band members there had been numerous technicians, and support staff -- French, Irish, British and American -- helping with the shoot.

The inquiry was launched on Tuesday evening and had continued throughout Wednesday, the national Bastille Day holiday, he said -- an indication of how seriously the police were taking the case.

"We are considering a wide range of possible theories -- theft by a fan who simply likes the music, theft by someone who wants to exploit the CD by putting it on the internet. The CD may also have simply been lost," Mr. Sapata said.

U2's manager, Paul McGuinness, told the band's website: "The recording of this album has been going so well. The band is so excited about its release. It would be a shame if unfinished work fell into the wrong hands."

Lucian Grainge, the chairman and chief executive of Universal Music Group U.K., said: "This matter is of great concern to us.

"As the missing CD is our property, we're very keen to find it as soon as possible and the French police are being extremely helpful in this regard."

The new album, titled Vertigo, is due to be released in November and will be the first new studio album from U2 since All That You Can't Leave Behind, nearly four years ago.

The group's management yesterday called an emergency meeting in London to try to deal with the fallout.

One industry source said the theft could potentially cost the band and their record company upwards of 10m.

"There is a crucial window period of a week or two after a band release a new album when it will make most of its money. At that point it is crucial to have property protection, so if it has been on the internet beforehand it will obviously disrupt the whole brand," the source said.

It is not the first time U2 have fallen foul of bootleggers. New songs from their 1996 album, Pop, went on sale on the internet after purportedly being removed from their Dublin studio by computer hackers.

It was claimed at the time that the songs may have been electronically "siphoned off" along cables feeding the band's own video camera, which has been recording rehearsals and feeding images on to the band's website.

According to the IFPI, the international recording industry body, record sales fell by 8% in 2003 as a result of illegal file sharing.

It is also not the first time the band have been careless with a CD. In 2002 Bono handed a demo copy of "Electrical Storm" to Radio 1 DJ Sarah HB as a wedding gift. She promptly played it on her radio show, forcing the band to bring forward its release by two weeks.

© The Guardian, 2004.