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Guns N' Roses lawyer blasts Dr Pepper

LONDON (Billboard) - The lawyer for Guns N’ Roses and Axl Rose has castigated Dr Pepper, accusing the soda maker of failing to deliver on its promotion to offer free soda in celebration of the band’s new album, “Chinese Democracy.” Guns N’ Roses was never involved in the campaign.

Axel Rose, lead singer for the band Guns N' Roses, performs during a concert in Budapest June 1, 2006. REUTERS/Karoly Arvai

Beverly Hills-based Alan Gutman has written to Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. president and CEO Larry Young, accusing the company of operating an online redemption scheme that was an “unmitigated disaster which defrauded customers.”

Band frontman Rose did not take any action when, in March, Dr Pepper put out a press release offering free soda to any American if the long-awaited Guns N’ Roses album came out before the end of 2008. However, Rose has reacted to the news that fans have been unable to get their soda since the November 23 release of “Chinese Democracy.”

Gutman is demanding that Dr Pepper makes good on its offer by extending the period for the offer; he also wants full-page apologies in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.

Gutman’s letter makes clear his view that the original campaign was an “exploitation of my clients’ legendary reputation and their eagerly awaited album” and “brazenly violated our clients’ rights.” He is also seeking an “appropriate payment ... for the unauthorized use and abuse of their publicity and intellectual property rights,” with the threat of further action if an acceptable offer is not made.

“Now is the time to clean up the mess,” Gutman says.

Dr Pepper’s Web servers crashed under the demand for coupons that could be exchanged for free drinks. Dr Pepper extended the November 23 promotion for an extra day, but the company’s Web site was inaccessible for a substantial part of it. “Dr Pepper was completely unprepared for the traffic to its site,” Gutman says in the letter, describing the promotion as a “complete fiasco.”

Gutman adds, “The entire point of your campaign has been to use public interest in Axl Rose and Guns N’ Roses as a lure to increase consumer awareness of Dr Pepper.” He further states that “mocking undertones” in the online promotional content represent a “raw and damaging commercial exploitation of our clients’ rights,” adding that the association is “even more damaging in light of your shoddy execution of your disingenuous giveaway offer.”

The soda maker declined to comment. Dr Pepper was considering extending the promotion, according to a source close to the situation.