Turn it up even louder – This is Spinal Tap claim moves forwards

October 2018



We previously reported here about the ongoing ‘This is Spinal Tap’ litigation in the US and also the fact that we were running out of puns. Nonetheless, we are happy to report that Harry Shearer is having a good time…all the time following a development in the litigation.

In short the case revolves around Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner’s allegations that Vivendi have been deliberately underpaying royalties due from the exploitation of the This is Spinal Tap film.

The stars of the cult film have claimed 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”.

In October 2017, Shearer, Guest, McKean and Reiner amended the claim against Vivendi to take into account “the fraud by concealment and misrepresentation conducted by Vivendi and its agent Ron Halpern and others”. This also resulted in Universal Music being added as a named defendant.

Shearer, Guest, McKean and Reiner’s requests are simple; they want the copyright in the film to be transferred back to them from Vivendi. This claim is made under the US copyright reversion provisions which have seen some action in the last year or so. On the other hand, Vivendi claim that the litigation is ‘absurd’ and have sought to have the claim dismissed.

As promised, Shearer and co are having a good time…all the time because the claim has been cleared to proceed by Judge Dolly M Gee. Complete Music Updates reported that the Judge Gee was sympathetic to the argument that in fact Universal Music wasn’t a party to the 1982 contract. Judge Gee proceeded to dismiss a majority of the claim, save for the termination of copyright strand against Universal Music.

Shearer and co were told that they may again amend their claim, specifically against Universal Music.

Judge Gee went on to throw out Vivendi’s attempts to dismiss the claim, giving Shearer more reason to have a good time…all the time. In fact, Shearer stated “We are pleased with the decision in our ongoing litigation involving the film ‘This Is Spinal Tap,’ which allows all of our claims against Vivendi, StudioCanal and [StudioCanal exec] Ron Halpern, including the fraud claim, to proceed. We are also confident that we will adequately amend our claims against the defendant Universal Music, as specified by Judge Gee’s order, so we can move forward with those as well”.

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




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