For years, Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner have been suing Universal to get paid, citing Universal's blatantly crooked bookkeeping (Shearer received $98 in music royalties and $81 in merchandising income from the film).
Now, the group has settled with Universal, presumably for less than the $400m named in the suit.
The settlement details aren't public, but UMG will continue to distribute Spinal Tap's music and the rights to the music will be reverted to the creators…"eventually."
The long and initially contentiously worded $125 million lawsuit, originally filed in October 2016 by Shearer's Century of Progress Productionsl, alleged that UMG and Studiocanal underpaid music royalties in the film and sought to reclaim their copyrights to the film, its songs and characters. The lawsuit said Vivendi reported only $98 in total income from soundtrack music sales between 1989 and 2006, and just $81 in worldwide merchandising income. Guest, and companies belonging to Reiner and McKean, were later added to the complaint.
Vivendi argued that three of the co-creators' companies, which sought up to $400 million in damages, did not have the legal right to sue. In September, a district court judge Gee agreed, noting that the contracts with the creators' companies obligated them to "perform services — not receive rights or other benefits," although she allowed co-creator Christopher Guest's case to proceed and allowed the other three the option to sue individually. She also concurred with Vivendi that details of the fraud allegations were not up to snuff.
Spinal Tap Creators and Universal Music Settle Copyright Dispute [Jem Aswad/Variety]