Soundgarden, Hole + Others Take Legal Action Over 2008 Universal Studios Vault Fire
As expected, a number of artists have united to take legal action against the Universal Music Group after the recent report that revealed that approximately 500,000 master recordings were destroyed in a 2008 fire.
Billboard reports that Soundgarden, Hole, Steve Earle, Tom Petty’s ex-wife Jane and Tom Whalley on behalf of the Afeni Shakur Trust that oversees Tupac Shakur’s estate united to file a punitive class action lawsuit against Universal on Friday (June 21)
As was recently detailed in a New York Times article, a 2008 fire on the Universal Studios lot reportedly reached a company vault on the facilities that destroyed a number of master recordings. The artists involved in the legal action are seeking to recover half of any settlement proceeds and insurance payments made to UMG as well as half of any remaining loss of value not compensated by the settlement and insurance proceedings.
"UMG concealed its massive recovery from Plaintiffs, apparently hoping it could keep it all to itself by burying the truth in sealed court filings and a confidential settlement agreement. Most importantly, UMG did not share any of its recovery with Plaintiffs, the artists whose life works were destroyed in the Fire—even though, by the terms of their recording contracts, Plaintiffs are entitled to 50 percent of those proceeds and payments,” reads the complaint. According to the lawsuit, the litigation and insurance claims were valued at $150 million, none of which was directly shared with the artists.
The lawsuit goes on to allege “a systematic and fraudulent scheme of misrepresentation and misdirection” by the company to cover up the total loss, also revealing that the company had failed to inform the plaintiffs “that any master recordings embodying musical works owned by them were destroyed in the fire, and has refused to disclose or account plaintiffs the settlement proceeds and insurance payments received.”
The lawsuit also charges UMG with breach of duty of care to the artists, storing the recordings in a facility that had a “similar fire in 1990.” In total, the plaintiffs are seeking over $100 million in compensatory damages.
UMG previously stated that they believed the New York Times article that revealed the loss of the masters in 2008 fire contained “numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets.”
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