Suit was initiated by Spinal Tap “bassist” Harry Shearer
By David Sands
February 10, 2017
The bandmates and director from the classic rock ‘n’ roll mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap are joining forces again—but not for a new movie.
Instead, they’ve reunited for a $400 million lawsuit against Vivendi, the French media conglomerate that now owns the rights to the film. Actors Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean and Director Rob Reiner claim the company hasn’t been been square with them on sharing profits since it first acquired rights to the movie in 1989. The four men are listed as co-creators of the film and equal partners in Spinal Tap Productions.
Their suit asserts that the French firm misrepresented accounting data and failed to notify the co-creators of financial matters as contractually required so it would not have to pay them their rightful share of film-related revenues.
For example, the lawsuit alleges that Vivendi valued the income from movie soundtrack sales between 1989 to 2006 at a meager $98 and totaled global merchandising revenue from 1984 to 2006 at just $81; the plaintiffs, however, claim the conglomerates actually tallied up “tens of millions of dollars” in profits from these sales.
The legal scuffle over Spinal Tap began with actor Harry Shearer, who plays bassist Derek Smalls in the movie; he filed a claim seeking $125 millon in damages last October. Shearer claims to have discovered this alleged financial malfeasance after reading a 2013 accounting report. This month Guest, McKean and Reiner joined onto the lawsuit.
“Their participation will help demonstrate the opaque and misleading conduct at the heart of this case. We’re even louder now,” says Shearer.
Jointly, they’re seeking “no less” than $400 million in compensatory and punitive damages from StudioCanal which holds the film rights, and Universal Music, which owns the soundtrack rights; both firms are subsidiaries of Vivendi.
Vivendi has yet to publicly comment on the case.
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