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Artists File Suit Against Universal Music Over 2008 Fire

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Artists File $100 Million Suit Against Universal Music Over 2008 Fire

Several prominent bands, musicians and artist estates sued the world's largest record company, Universal Music Group [UMG], on Friday after an investigation published by the New York Times earlier this month alleged that hundreds of thousands of master recordings, protection copies, unreleased music and other materials had burned in a massive fire at a UMG vault in 2008.

The plaintiffs contend that UMG breached its contract with artists by failing to archive the materials properly, instead allegedly stowing masters and other materials "in an inadequate, substandard storage warehouse located on the backlot of Universal Studios [Hollywood] that was a known firetrap." Moreover, they say that after the fire, "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.' "

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Hopefully UMG gets raked over the coals. Maybe then other labels will take their responsibilities more seriously.

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Someone with a connection to Blue Note should find out what they have in place to avoid this.

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I'm wondering what the relative weight of the argument's going to be if/when this actually hits the court, financial or moral?

Are there actual clauses in the contracts stating a moral obligation to preserve the cultures? Or to adequately preserve source materials into perpetuity?

And what kind of future financial losses are going to be claimed?

Given how most people today don't really buy music, and what they do buy, they don't really care too much about amazing sonics (and how it's not yet been determined how much music was totally lost among artists that still sell anything), it will be interesting to see how the plaintiff's try to monetize a moral outrage ( I guess...) into a $100,000,000.00 financial claim.

Now's the time to do it, if it's going to get done at all.

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I assume these are all existing contracts. If not, there may be a statute of limitations defense. 

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12 hours ago, JSngry said:

I'm wondering what the relative weight of the argument's going to be if/when this actually hits the court, financial or moral?

Are there actual clauses in the contracts stating a moral obligation to preserve the cultures? Or to adequately preserve source materials into perpetuity?

And what kind of future financial losses are going to be claimed?

Given how most people today don't really buy music, and what they do buy, they don't really care too much about amazing sonics (and how it's not yet been determined how much music was totally lost among artists that still sell anything), it will be interesting to see how the plaintiff's try to monetize a moral outrage ( I guess...) into a $100,000,000.00 financial claim.

Now's the time to do it, if it's going to get done at all.

Based upon my extensive legal knowledge gleaned from skimming the NYT article, the cases will revolve around the potential earnings value of the lost catalogs and not any moral obligations to preserve cultural treasures. The artists won't be able to release anymore Remastered-from-the-analog-tapes Super Deluxe Limited Editions with bonus never-before-released tracks. They can argue that they've lost millions of dollars due to UMG's negligence. Plus, who knows what technology might be developed in the future that would have enabled them to re-release the material in even greater sonic quality: some day it will be ported right into our skulls.

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I'll bet that most of these musicians were approached  by lawyers after the NY Times article appeared.  

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10 hours ago, Captain Howdy said:

The artists won't be able to release anymore Remastered-from-the-analog-tapes Super Deluxe Limited Editions with bonus never-before-released tracks. They can argue that they've lost millions of dollars due to UMG's negligence. Plus, who knows what technology might be developed in the future that would have enabled them to re-release the material in even greater sonic quality: some day it will be ported right into our skulls.

yeah, they can try that. And then UMG show their data about how nobody buys that shit anymore, been trending downward and continues to trend downward, you wanna settle for $29.95, draw up the papers right now. Otherwise, we still have all we need to sell your shit going forth, especially for the skullograph, so how much are you losing again, pony boy?

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15 hours ago, Brad said:

I assume these are all existing contracts. If not, there may be a statute of limitations defense. 

In terms of filing a cause of action in a timely manner in relationship to the date of the fire? Doesn't the fact that Universal lied to everybody about what was lost in the fire have an impact on such a defense?

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I'm just wondering what counter will made to the "hey, we're sorry we fucked this up, but the bottom line is that it's our property that was lost, and the nature of what was lost still leaves plenty of ways for us to sell your product going forth, so....what's the basis of your claim again?".

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

I'm just wondering what counter will made to the "hey, we're sorry we fucked this up, but the bottom line is that it's our property that was lost, and the nature of what was lost still leaves plenty of ways for us to sell your product going forth, so....what's the basis of your claim again?".

This.

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1 hour ago, JSngry said:

I'm just wondering what counter will made to the "hey, we're sorry we fucked this up, but the bottom line is that it's our property that was lost, and the nature of what was lost still leaves plenty of ways for us to sell your product going forth, so....what's the basis of your claim again?".

It's a damn shame, no question, but yeah, was there music from the Tom Petty and Tupac that will never be heard due to the fire? Courtney Love in another lawsuit is as surprising as seeing "the estates of....".

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13 minutes ago, catesta said:

It's a damn shame, no question, but yeah, was there music from the Tom Petty and Tupac that will never be heard due to the fire?

And don't be surprised if they counter with some variant of, of we got it somewhere, hell, YOU probably got it somewhere, and read the contract again, whose property is it, really?

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10 hours ago, JSngry said:

And don't be surprised if they counter with some variant of, of we got it somewhere, hell, YOU probably got it somewhere, and read the contract again, whose property is it, really?

"The plaintiffs contend that UMG breached its contract with artists by failing to archive the materials properly..." 

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Well, ok, what does the contract read in that regard? Exactly what is the verbiage?

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You'll find out in discovery. 

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8 minutes ago, Brad said:

You'll find out in discovery. 

This is a contract dispute about living up to the terms of the contract and you won't find out about the terms of the contract until discovery?

Don't all parties to a contract get, you know, a copy of the executed contract?

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15 minutes ago, Dan Gould said:

This is a contract dispute about living up to the terms of the contract and you won't find out about the terms of the contract until discovery?

Don't all parties to a contract get, you know, a copy of the executed contract?

I wasn't referring to the artist but to Jim and the public at large. Even though each side may have the contract (plus all amendments, if any), it still may be discoverable, just to make sure both sides are working off the same document. 

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 In the past, you used to be able to get barracks room lawyers to sort out this kind of thing for you.  That doesn’t seem to be a thing any more, but I’m wondering if any sort of equivalent could be found on the internet anywhere…? 

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I'm expecting to at some point get queasy about an argument developing about what it means to archive "properly", and then we get into a argument about what the purpose of an archive is, is it to keep material available in usable form, or is it to preserve everything in its most original form, is it to be a library or a museum? 

And then, whose property is it anyway, and then...the whole thing gets ugly, especially when in cases like Bryan Adams, it appears that the artists themselves have a better source than the label, and then what, does the label then seek to take that property back from the artist, and if not, what kinds of doors does that open?

There's j lot of wobbliness going on in all this, it seems. Wobblewobblewobble.

Interesting times...

 

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I do agree with you that this question of cultural archiving is an important one and has many different dimensions. And I agree that it will be interesting to see how much of that question, as opposed to more straightforward contractual questions and liabilities come into discussion.

 

I’m guessing you guys know about Sheryl Crow

 

Sheryl Crow: Universal Studios fire destroyed all my master tapes https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-48745638

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But Sheryl Crow is smart/savvy. What has she herself kept hold of?

Are the lawsuits being filed on behalf of The Great American Musical Heritage or on behalf of specific artists/estates?

Not saying that any of this exonerates Universal in any way, just wondering how/if it goes to figuring a specific damage claim within the definitions of the legal system..

 

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12 hours ago, David Ayers said:

Sheryl Crow: Universal Studios fire destroyed all my master tapes https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-48745638

"And secondly, I can't understand how you could make safeties [back-up copies] and have them in the same vault. I mean, what's the point?"

"There are many songs on my masters that haven't come out," she said. "My peace of mind in knowing I could come back someday and listen to them and mine those [sessions] for basement tapes and outtakes, are gone."

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