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Vicky Cornell sues Soundgarden for ‘missing’ royalties

In this April 27, 2012, file photo, Chris Cornell, at left, and his wife, Vicky Karayiannis attend the celebration of 'Commando: The Autobiography of Johnny Ramone,' in Los Angeles, Calif. AP Photo/Katy Winn, File

Vicky Cornell, widow of late-Soundgarden frontman, Chris Cornell, has filed a lawsuit against the much-beloved grunge band, claiming that its members are withholding “indisputably owed” royalties from her and her two children, Toni and Christopher.

The lawsuit, filed in Florida federal court on Monday, alleges that the remaining band members: Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron and Ben Shepherd — along with their manager, Rit Venerus — are responsible for “shamelessly conspiring to wrongfully withhold hundreds of thousands of dollars” from the family.

Following his tragic passing in 2017, Soundgarden sought permission to use seven of Chris’ unreleased songs — which were recorded in his home studio shortly before his death — for a future album, according to legal documents obtained by Pitchfork.

Initially, Vicky granted the band permission to use those vocal tracks for the potential album, provided that they were used “in a way that would respect” her late husband’s legacy, however, according to the documents, Soundgarden later “refused” to comply with her requests, prompting the lawsuit.

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Members of Soundgarden arrive at the world premiere of The Avengers held at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. Frank Trapper / Corbis via Getty Images

Rather than cooperating with Vicky on a potential marketing strategy for a seventh Soundgarden album, the suit alleges that a year after their agreement was made, the band was unwilling to commit to “any type of approval process.”

The files later purport that the band refused to work with one of Chris’ “trusted producers” as originally promised.

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In the lengthy document, Vicky called Soundgarden’s lack of royalty payments “an unlawful attempt to strong-arm Chris’ Estate into turning over certain audio recordings created by Chris before he passed away.”

Though Chris’ recordings were allegedly written solely by him, and later “bequeathed” to his Estate, Soundgarden has claimed otherwise, suggesting that they had been “working on the files in a collaborative effort” with the deceased singer.

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The widow shared a post to Instagram expanding on the legal battle on Monday, adding that she felt exploited by her husband’s former bandmates.

She wrote: “I am shocked at how often this occurs. It’s not just me, or the rock-star widow, or the political widow; it is the case for the vast majority of women after their partners have passed. It is an unpleasant and unfortunately all too common theme.”

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Furthermore, the legal document alleges that in order to get their hands on Chris’ studio tracks, Soundgarden “resorted to pressure tactics, harassment, unlawful conversion of royalties, and extortion.”

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The suit added that the band also “callously [provoked] their ‘rabid'” fanbase by suggesting that Vicky was putting up a delay and potentially stopping the release of new Soundgarden music altogether.
Vicky’s attorney added in the file that the former bandmates were already aware that “stalkers have [previously] threatened the safety of [the Cornell family]” following Chris’ death.

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On her decision to file the suit, Vicky wrote on Instagram, “This was not the way I would have chosen to move forward. But I will not be pushed aside for someone else’s convenience or gain.”

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She concluded: “I will do justice by my husband’s work and memory; for our children and for everything we stood for.”

Ben Shepherd, Kim Thayil and Matt Cameron of Soundgarden attend the public unveiling of a statue of Chris Cornell at MoPOP on Oct. 7, 2018 in Seattle, Wash. Mat Hayward / Getty Images

A letter from Soundgarden’s attorney, which was included in the legal documents, listed all of the songs-in-question, citing that Cameron co-wrote three of them, whereas Thayil and Shepherd co-wrote one of the seven each.

In response, Vicky alleges that the band “has not produced any partnership documents, much less any documentation signed by Chris, supporting their conclusory claims of ownership,” adding that “there is no evidence that the [songs] were ever intended to be anything but Chris’ sole and exclusive property.”

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Global News has reached out to a representative of both Vicky Cornell and Soundgarden seeking further comment.

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As of this writing, the songs in question remain unreleased.

adam.wallis@globalnews.ca

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