A remaining lawsuit over a 2008 fire at Universal Music Group is raging on, with the company refuting recent claims for an artist who reportedly lost masters.
The artist, now-defunct rock band Soundgarden, sent an updated complaint in court stating that UMG had failed to state if the band had lost any master recordings in the fire.“UMG did not speak up immediately or even ever inform its recording artists that the Master Recordings embodying their musical works were destroyed,” the lawsuit states. “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.”An attorney for the company, Scott Edelman, refute this claim in a formal declaration to drop the case. “Specifically, I noted that UMG expressly told Soundgarden over four years ago that UMG had lost in the fire two compiled album master 1⁄2 analog reels of one Soundgarden album Badmotorfinger but that UMG was still able to issue a remastered release of this album with Soundgarden’s knowledge and participation, using a digital audio tape safety copy,” the letter read.The declaration continued: “I further explained to Plaintiffs [that] UMG currently has 1301 assets in its vault related to Soundgarden and that only 21 assets were impacted by the fire, none of which were multitrack masters.” Edelman also provided copies of emails of the aforementioned correspondence.Just last week, UMG provided evidence that three of the four remaining artists suing for the fire — Steve Earle and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur — did not lose masters in the fire.The fire, which took place on June 1, 2008, destroyed an estimated 500,000 master recordings from artists across several genres like Billie Holiday and Nirvana. It happened in a facility in Los Angeles that UMG had rented from NBC. In a 2009 legal action against NBC, UMG reported the total of its losses came to $150 million.
How many buildings burned? None of these facilities, which were used to house millions of dollars of master recordings had fire protection equipment? Universal Music Group SHOULD be sued and these artists should have the rights of the recordings that were lost in the fire returned to them, as well as damages for breach of contract. UMG should have taken reasonable care to assure that these recordings were in a safe and secure environment. This appears to be gross negligence on their part!
The United States is a leader in music and motion picture sales, and it is disgusting that master recordings were treated this way. Someone could have dropped a cigarette or an amplifier could have blown up, or an air conditioner compressor could have started a wiring fire. And while a fire may have started, fire protection equipment should have allowed the fire to be put out in a timely manner without 4 buildings full of this nation’s history being destroyed.
Why isn’t this being investigated as possible arson. Further, this has happened in the same location….3 times in the past. Once in the 60’s, once in 1990, and now in 2008. It seems to me that when Universal gets too much in the archive that isn’t selling, that it all burns down.
I would like to suggest that the FBI investigate the 2008 fires.
Once, it was an accident. Twice it was arson. Three times, it looks like wire fraud. This affects the entire United States! These buildings housed…tons of old analog TV programming.
Were these fires started, not by employees, but by Universal itself? I have heard stories from people that say that they heard explosions before the fires happened. Again, if you have 150 million to 1billion in sound recordings, where is the fire protection equipment?
Why were these recordings stored in Los Angeles? That is a terrible place for an archive.