Soundgarden Hits Back at Universal Music Group, Demanding Proof Masters Weren't Lost in 2008 Fire

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Soundgarden photographed on Aug. 2, 1992 in Chicago.

The company has responded, accusing the attorneys in a class action lawsuit of using discovery as a fishing expedition "for a new angle and new plaintiffs."

Attorneys for the band Soundgarden are demanding Universal Music Group hand over key discovery evidence it claims to have in its possession related to the 2008 Universal Studios fire, according to a new court filing. In addition, they are asking that UMG hand over definitive information that shows which music groups lost their original masters and whether they collected insurance money from the loss from the vault blaze.   

The band's attorneys are demanding an end to UMG's "discovery games" and are asking the court to order UMG to produce the information they have already requested. While UMG attorneys previously asserted that original masters for Hole, Tupac Shakur, Tom Petty and Steve Earle were not lost in the fire, attorneys for those artists are still demanding that the label produce the necessary evidence to back up those claims.

"This is a case that UMG wants to litigate with rhetoric in the media rather than on the merits in the courtroom,” Soundgarden's counsel said. "UMG is refusing to produce any discovery." 

"The plaintiffs' attorneys have entered desperation mode," said UMG spokespersons in a statement. "Even after they learned that masters from four of their five clients were not lost -- and that the one client for whom UMG did have masters affected by the fire actually had known of it years ago and then worked with UMG to successfully reissue a release from alternate high-quality sources -- they continue to make ridiculous demands in an effort to recruit more clients to keep their meritless litigation alive. So now that it's been established that the fire never affected the availability of their clients' music nor impacted those clients' compensation, what exactly is their motivation?"  

Last week, UMG filed their own court papers demanding the Seattle rockers drop their class action against them over the vault fire, citing emails from the group showing they have been fully aware of the minimal amount of loss to their masters since 2015. UMG filed the motion on Aug. 26 demanding the band "immediately dismiss their case against UMG within 24 hours" or they would ask the court to order the band to reimburse their attorney fees and costs for defending the lawsuit.

But Soundgarden shows no indication of backing down. Instead, they are plowing through with their lawsuit accusing UMG of stalling and refusing to hand over evidence in their possession. 

"While UMG promotes its supposed transparency, they refuse to provide the artists with basic information about their lawsuits against their landlord and insurer: What master recordings did UMG claim were destroyed, how much did they claim their damages were and how much did they collect on account of their claims?" said the band's attorney Howard King. "We already know they failed to share any of their recoveries with the artists."

Attorneys for Soundgarden and the other bands are asking that UMG then tell them definitively which artist materials were destroyed in the fire and provide evidence that UMG did not monetize those losses through insurance claims. They are demanding un-redacted court records from UMG's fire litigation concerning the 2008 fire.

When asked why Soundgarden attorneys were seeking evidence of what UMG received through the insurance litigation from the fire, Ed McPherson responded:

"You have asked the (multi) million dollar question! There was a huge fire. It burned something. UMG sued NBCUniversal and its own insurer, recovering what was reported to be over $100 Million for irreplaceable masters that were destroyed. UMG has told everyone that nobody lost any masters. Then, what in the world did they get the $100 million for? We would like to know, because we feel that UMG artists should get 50% of UMG's recovery. Apparently, however, there is something in the (redacted) court files that UMG doesn't want us (or anyone else) to see."

UMG quickly fired back in court papers filed Wednesday (Sept. 4) accusing Soundgarden attorneys of attempting to use discovery merely as a fishing expedition "for a new angle and new plaintiffs." The company states that after informing the majority of the plaintiffs (four out of the five in the case) that they suffered no losses in the fire, their attorneys are now reaching to broaden the case and find new clients. 

UMG is asking the court to deny Soundgarden's latest discovery request calling them "oppressive, over broad, and voluminous." And despite the arguments of Soundgarden’s attorneys, UMG maintains that that “nothing in the contracts comes close to requiring UMG to share ‘all payments based on Master Recordings.” The company argues it was under no obligation to share any fire insurance proceeds, because, per the bands' contracts, they are the sole owner of the recordings. The company argues that, for example, their contract with Soundgarden is triggered by royalty money from uses from masters licensed by UMG to others -- not settlement and insurance payments. 

"There is nothing unusual or untoward about UMG retaining settlement and insurance payments it rightly received following the destruction of property that plaintiffs concede belonged to UMG," court papers state. 

UMG is asking the court to deny Soundgarden's latest motion. 


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