The remaining Soundgarden band members are accusing Vicky Cornell of locking them out of their social media accounts, as well as the band’s website, and are asking a judge to step in.
Soundgarden’s Kim Thayil, Matt Cameron, Ben Shepherd and their business manager Rit Venerus filed papers in Washington state U.S. District Court on March 25 accusing Cornell of locking them out their Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, YouTube, Snapchat, Tumblr, Top Spin and Pinterest accounts, as well as Soundgarden’s official website, and changing all the passwords. The band is asking a judge to order her to hand over the passwords or include a final posting stating, “Soundgarden has temporarily suspended its official social media accounts due to pending litigation.”
Vicky has been embroiled an ongoing legal dispute with the remaining members of the band after Chris Cornell’s sudden death on May 18, 2017 at the age of 52 while on tour with the band in Detroit. He left his property – including his intellectual and personal property rights – to her for the benefit of their two minor children.
Two and half years after he died (Dec. 9, 2019), Vicky filed a lawsuit against the remaining members of the band — Thayil, Cameron, Shepherd — and Venerus, asking a judge to declare her the rightful owner of her husband’s unreleased recordings and of his name and likeness. She also demanded the court order the band to open their financial books to her and to provide her with an inventory of all Chris’ personal property that was stored at the Pearl Jam warehouse space. In addition, she claimed the band was withholding hundreds of thousands of dollars from her.
The remaining band members say ever since Vicky filed her lawsuit against them, they’ve been locked out of the band’s official social media accounts. They accuse Vicky in court papers of “holding hostage the login information” despite their repeated requests. Prior to the litigation with Vicky, the band says their socials were managed by their then-management company, Patriot Management. After Patriot was terminated in Oct. 2019, they said they learned that Patriot had specifically handed over all the login information to Vicky.
According to their court filing, the band says Patriot confirmed in an email dated Dec. 3, 2019 that “Vicky [Cornell] has since changed all the social media passwords for the band accounts and will not share them with [Patriot] as she wants the band, and I quote, ‘to sue her for them’.”
The band says not only are their social accounts “in a state of neglect,” but that Vicky is identifying herself as “Soundgarden” and has removed fan comments and posted images and comments to the Soundgarden social media pages. The band says there have been no news items added to the band’s official website since Oct. 15, 2019, no new posts to the band’s Twitter account since Jan. 28, 2020 and only one new post on the Soundgarden Facebook account to promote the Chris Cornell solo album, which was posthumously released on March 3, 2021. In addition, the court papers say the band’s Facebook “official store” page is not operational, and because of the lack of postings on Twitter, the Soundgarden account has been stripped of its “verified blue badge,” which the band says sows doubt as to whether the account is official.
A hearing on the band’s request is set for April 16.
Following the band’s legal motion, Cornell’s attorney Martin Singer responded in a statement to Billboard, saying a forthcoming motion of their own will “expose the truth” about the accounts.
According to Singer, Cornell created the accounts and grew their follower counts while the rest of the band “displayed no interest” in social media.
“Ms. Cornell has overseen these accounts for close to a decade,” Singer said. “The fact that Soundgarden is unaware of the user-names and passwords for their alleged ‘own’ accounts confirms their utter lack of involvement in creating, growing and maintaining their alleged accounts.”
Ron Laffitte, Chris Cornell’s former manager, said: “At no time were any other members of Soundgarden involved [in the band’s social media accounts], and this was true both before and after Chris died. Because of this, Soundgarden’s attempt to seek an injunction in connection with the social media accounts is surprising to say the least.”
This band’s motion comes a week after a federal judge in Washington state recommend the court toss out two of Vicky Cornell’s six claims against the remaining members of Soundgarden. U.S. District Judge Michelle Peterson said in a report filed on March 19 that there wasn’t evidence that the band was improperly withholding from her “hundreds of thousands of dollars” of Chris’ royalty money or that the band’s manager breached his duty to look after her best interest. Peterson’s report will now be sent to the Presiding Judge Robert S. Lasnik who will make the final decision.
APRIL 1: This article was updated with statements from Vicky Cornell’s attorney and the former manager of Chris Cornell.