Soundgarden Lawyer Rejects UMG’s Request for Band to Drop Vault Fire Lawsuit
A lawyer for Soundgarden has rebuffed Universal Music Group's request for the rockers to expediently drop their lawsuit against the media corporation over the 2008 vault fire on the Universal Studios lot. The fire reportedly destroyed a number of artists' master recordings, including those of Soundgarden's. Filed in June, the band had joined Hole and others in seeking damages for materials thought to be lost in the blaze.
But after UMG mostly dismissed reports put forward that month by The New York Times that upwards of 100,000 masters ("an estimated 500K song titles") were burned in the fire, Hole dropped out of the suit after receiving assurances theirs weren't destroyed. That left the other originally named plaintiffs — Soundgarden, Steve Earle and representatives for both Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur — to still pursue their claims, as Billboard had reported.
On Monday, Variety first reported the Aug. 26 motion from UMG's lawyers, Gibson Dunn, alleging that not only were damages to Soundgarden's catalog "minimal," but that the band were already made aware of the incident back in 2015. It demanded Soundgarden "immediately dismiss their case against UMG within 24 hours."
That didn't sit well with Howard King, the lawyer for Soundgarden. He responded that Universal Music Group had no legal basis for demanding the band drop their case against the "Big Three" music company.
"Gibson Dunn may be the biggest law firm in the world, but they are not the judge," the lawyer told Rolling Stone on Wednesday (Aug. 28). "Their arbitrary deadlines have zero force or effect. Until UMG reveals what it collected for their litigation claims to extensive damage to master recordings, we cannot accept their belated claim that no damages were actually suffered."
As outlined in the motion, Soundgarden were apparently shown to have known of the losses as early as May 2015. Reportedly, it was then that guitarist Kim Thayil was forwarded an email from Badmotorfinger mix engineer Ron Saint Germain mentioning the damages from the fire. (Elsewhere in the suit, claims are made that Thayil sent an email to Jeff Fura, Universal Music's A&R director, reportedly stating, "I’m sure the band knows, or was told the the 1/2[-inch] tapes were destroyed, and that to remaster we need to remix.") Therefore, the motion posits the band's recent claims that they weren't informed of the losses in the fire contradicts their previous communications admitting knowledge of the fire and the related damages to Soundgarden masters.
As noted by The Hollywood Reporter, Universal Music Group has also asked a judge to delay discovery in the case until the court rules on its motion to dismiss. A hearing is currently scheduled for Nov. 4.
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