Music Artists File Class Action Against Universal Music

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers perform at KAABOO 2017 at the Del Mar Racetrack and Fairgrounds, in San Diego, Calif., Sept. 17, 2017. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP, File)

(CN) – Music artists, including Soundgarden and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur filed a $100 million class action lawsuit against Universal Music Group in federal court in Los Angeles Friday over a 2008 fire that allegedly destroyed master recordings made by the artists.

The lawsuit was filed following an article published last week in New York Times Magazine that claimed a June 1, 2008 fire at Universal Studios Hollywood destroyed 100,000 recordings by legendary artists, including Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Nirvana and Louis Armstrong.

The report listed several historic songs destroyed in the fire, such as the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” and Bo Diddley’s “Bo Diddley/I’m a Man.”

The lawsuit filed Friday in the Central District of California claims that Universal Music Group, the largest record company on the planet, failed to properly store and protect the tapes in violation of its contract with the artists.

“Instead, 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 complaint states.

The artists also claim the company never told them about the loss of the master recordings.

“In fact, 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,” the lawsuit states.

Additionally, the complaint alleges UMG hid the loss from the music artists in order to hide approximately $150 million it gained from insurance claims.

“UMG concealed its massive recovery from Plaintiffs, apparently hoping it could keep it all to itself by burying the truth in sealed court filings and a confidential settlement agreement,” the complaint says.

Universal did not immediately issue a comment on the lawsuit Friday evening, but in a previous statement released after the publication of last week’s article, a spokesperson said the article had “numerous inaccuracies, misleading statements, contradictions and fundamental misunderstandings of the scope of the incident and affected assets.”

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