A group of lawyers representing Soundgarden, Hole, singer/songwriter Steve Earle, the estate of the Tupac Shakur and the late-Tom Petty‘s ex-wife, Jane, have filed a class-action lawsuit against Universal Music Group (UMG).
The suit was filed on Friday in a Los Angeles, Calif., federal district court, according to the New York Times.
It seeks damage compensation as a result of the controversial Universal Studios fire which allegedly destroyed more than 500,000 archived master audio recordings in June 2008.
The initial NYT investigation piece, Recordings by Elton John, Nirvana and thousands more lost in fire, alleged that among the losses were tracks by Elton John, Nine Inch Nails, Nirvana, Beck, Snoop Dog, 2Pac, Aretha Franklin and Joni Mitchell along with many, many others.
In the suit, UMG has been accused of negligence for not doing enough to prevent the spread of the fire while also hiding the extent of the damage from artists whose music was supposedly destroyed, according to Rolling Stone.
Back in 2009, while allegedly “concealing” the losses of the fire, UMG pursued litigation against NBC to make up for its losses. Why? Because the backlot that became engulfed in flames was the property of the mammoth television network.
The companies reportedly reached a settlement while UMG was additionally compensated for its losses through insurance claims. UMG valued the damages at US$150 million.
As a result of this, the plaintiffs are now seeking “50% of any settlement proceeds and insurance payments received by UMG for the loss of the master recordings, and 50% of any remaining loss of value not compensated by such settlement proceeds and insurance payments,” as reported by Variety.
The lawsuit reads: “UMG stored the master recordings embodying plaintiffs’ musical works in an inadequate, substandard storage warehouse located on the backlot of Universal Studios that was a known firetrap.”
The document added: “UMG did not speak up immediately or even ever inform its recording artists that the master recordings embodying their musical works were destroyed.”
“In fact,” they continued, “UMG concealed the loss with false public statements such as that ‘we only lost a small number of tapes and other material by obscure artists from the 1940s and 50s.'”
“To this day, UMG has failed to inform plaintiffs that their master recordings were destroyed in the fire,” claimed the document in conclusion.
According to Rolling Stone, Lucian Grainge, CEO of UMG, recently issued an internal memo telling employees of the company to be transparent with artists about the controversial fire.
“Let me be clear: we owe our artists transparency,” wrote Grainge in the supposed email. “We owe them answers.”
“I will ensure that the senior management of this company, starting with me, owns this,” he concluded.
Although the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot was not owned by UMG, the recent lawsuit pins the blame on the company solely, claiming it was fully aware of the fire hazards surrounding the property.
A handful of buildings, the infamous King Kong Encounter attraction and a video vault containing more than 40,000 copies of various digital and physical TV shows and films were also destroyed in the massive blaze, according to the Toronto Star.
In response, several artists claimed that they were unaware of the losses until the NYT published its investigation piece, and that Universal Music Group (UMG) never notified them of their losses.
Global News reached out to UMG and NBC on Monday. As of this writing, they have not yet made comment.
— With files from The Associated Press