Shearer, who co-created mock-rockumentary 'This Is Spinal Tap' in the eighties, is suing parent company Vivendi for unpaid profits going back decades.
Harry Shearer is suing Vivendi, the parent company of Universal Music and StudioCanal, over millions of dollars in profits that he claims the company has withheld from the creators of the iconic ‘80s ‘rockumentary’ This Is Spinal Tap.
72 year old Shearer, who co-wrote the script and soundtrack as well as starring in the 1984 film as the unfortunate Spinal Tap bassist Derek Smalls, lodged a lawsuit claiming $125 million in compensatory and punitive damages against Vivendi at the Central District Court of California this week.
Vivendi, a French conglomerate, acquired the rights to This Is Spinal Tap in 1989 through its subsidiary StudioCanal. Shearer claims that, since that date, profits from the film have not been equitably shared between its four co-creators, cast or crew.
'Spinal Tap' creator Harry Shearer is suing Vivendi for $125 million
“This is a simple issue of artists’ rights,” said Shearer in a statement. “It is stunning that after all this time, two cinema releases, all the various home-video format releases, all the records and CDs, and all the band-themed merchandise still widely available worldwide, the only people who haven’t shared Spinal Tap’s success are those who formed the band and created the film in the first place.”
This Is Spinal Tap was made on a nuts-and-bolts budget of only $2.25 million, and became a cult classic around the world, telling the story of a cursed but not particularly competent heavy rock band.
Shearer, who has gone on to become a key part of the long-running animated show ‘The Simpsons’ providing voices for 23 main characters, co-created Spinal Tap with Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Rob Reiner.
The legal complaint alleges that, between 1989 and 2006, Vivendi reported that the total income from music soundtrack sales for the film was only $98, and the four creators’ share of worldwide merchandising from 1984 to 2006 was just $81.
The lawsuit contends this is absurd and obviously false, describing Vivendi’s actions as a “concerted and fraudulent campaign to hide, or grossly underreport, the film’s revenues in order to avoid its profit participation obligations.”
“Though I’ve launched this lawsuit on my own, it is in reality a challenge to the company on behalf of all creators of popular films whose talent has not been fairly remunerated,” continued Shearer in his statement. “I hope this lawsuit will help set a new precedent for… fair artistic compensation industry-wide.”
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