This is Spinal Tap and this is their lawsuit

April 2017

Film, broadcasting, recorded music



The French media giant Vivendi SA has turned it up to eleven and called the $400 million Spinal Tap lawsuit “absurd”. 

Vivendi, owner of Universal Music, is in the middle of a dispute with the members of Spinal Tap – yes the band that starred in the cult film ‘This is Spinal Tap’. 

The dispute arose when Harry Shearer alleged that StudioCanal, the media giant’s movie business, “wilfully manipulated certain accounting data, while ignoring contractually-obliged accounting and reporting processes, to deny [the] co-creators their rightful stake in the production’s profits”.

Since then, Shearer has been joined by Christopher Guest, Rob Reiner and Michael McKean and all are now named claimants. The lawsuit claims $400 million in damages to account for the alleged profits that has not been paid. 

Not only does Universal, through its subsidiaries, own the rights to the film it also owns the rights to the soundtrack. The lawsuit alleges further that this use of subsidiaries is anti-competitive, and has resulted in the creators of the cult film being deprived of a fair reward for their services.  

It is reported that Vivendi’s defence states that “Plaintiffs may not like the fact that they have not received anything close to the $400 million in contingent compensation that their complaint absurdly claims they should have received.”

Shearer, Guest, Reiner and McKean claim that over the twenty years they received $81 for merchandise and $98 for the soundtrack. If you ask me, it sounds like that’s barley enough for an “At Ease” weekend. 
By Samuel O’Toole LLB (Hons), Trainee Solicitor at Lawdit Music

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