“England’s loudest band will be heard”….in a courtroom in the US

October 2017

Film & TV, Artistes


The ‘This is Spinal Tap’ litigation has been ongoing for some time and now and it looks like it will go ahead. Last week it was ruled that the case will proceed on the provision that some new paperwork is filed. 

Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner allege that Vivendi, owner of StudioCanal, who in turn is the rights holder of the ‘Spinal Tap’ movie, of deliberate under-payment of music and other royalties. 

The action started when Harry Shearer began the lawsuit against Vivendi, and not long after Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner followed suit. They turned it up to eleven, and claimed that Vivendi “wilfully manipulated certain accounting data, while ignoring contractually-obligated accounting and reporting processes, to deny [the] co-creators their rightful stake in the production’s profits”.

Vivendi called the litigation ‘absurd’ and stated that they planned to have the case dismissed. In the ruling last week the Judge stated that the creators of ‘Spinal Tap’ had not done enough to substantiate the claims of fraud, Judge Dolly Gee explained that: although the creators had “vaguely alleged the elements of a fraud claim, they have failed to plead sufficient facts”.  

Judge Gee also went on to dismiss the claim from Shearer, McKean and Reiner. However, the Judge only dismissed the claim because the trio had filed the claim through their respective companies that the individuals used for their creative projects. Guest was the only one to have filed his claim in his personal name. Shearer, McKean and Reiner will need to re-file their claims be it with the removal of the company names. 

Essentially, this means that the ‘Spinal Tap’ case against Vivendi is allowed to proceed with one or two small amendments. Peter Haviland the legal representative for Shearer, Guests, McKean and Reiner sated “this ruling is an important victory”. Haviland, went on to explain that: “Even in studio-drafted contracts containing a ‘No Third Party Beneficiary Clause’, artists may be determined by a court to be third party beneficiaries who have the right to sue for wrongdoing, notwithstanding such contractual clauses”.

Shearer was very receptive of the ruling, “Vivendi thought we would be made to go away. Well, not today, not tomorrow, nor the next day. England’s loudest band will be heard. But today is a good day not just for us, but for all aggrieved creative artists”.

By Samuel O’Toole www.lawditmusic.co.uk



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