According to Rolling Stone, the Tupac Shakur Estate, Soundgarden, Tom Petty’s ex-wife Jane, Hole and Steve Earle have filed a lawsuit on behalf of a class against Universal Music Group. They are seeking damages related to the 2008 blaze.
The suit accuses UMG of negligence, as well keeping the extent of the damage concealed from the artists affected by the fire while “simultaneously pursuing litigation and insurance claims to recoup losses.”
The suit insists UMG accepted settlement proceeds and insurance claims valued at $150 million. Now, the class wants damages worth half that as well as any additional losses.
Although the fire was covered extensively at the time it occurred, the sordid details weren’t revealed until the NYT ran its story. The article claims 500,000 song titles were destroyed, including master tapes and unreleased material from Tupac Shakur, Eminem, 50 Cent, Louis Armstrong, The Roots, Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James, Chuck Berry, Elton John, Nirvana, and Janet Jackson.
The suit argues all potential members of the class “have an expectation that under their recording agreements with UMG there will be a 50/50 sharing of revenues derived from” the use and release of their work. It also claims UMG “violated good faith and fair dealing in all those contracts by allegedly failing to take reasonable measures to preserve and maintain those recordings.”
Furthermore, it states UMG issued a “systemic and fraudulent scheme of misrepresentation and misdirection” in the aftermath. It includes quotes UMG gave to media outlets such as “We only lost a small number of tapes and other material by obscure artists from the 1940s and Fifties.”
In the wake of the damning NYT story, UMG denied the severity of the incident. But, UMG CEO Lucian Grainge fired off a letter to his employees earlier this week imploring them to be as “transparent” as possible.
“We owe them answers,” he wrote in part. “I will ensure that the senior management of this company, starting with me, owns this.”
While the suit doesn’t name any particular albums or songs that were destroyed, The Roots’ Black Thought told HipHopDX in an exclusive statement the master recordings of two classic Roots albums succumbed to the blaze — Do You Want More?!?!??! and Illadelph Halflife — and referred to the NYT article as “depressing.”
“We had a couple classics destroyed in the fire as well,” Black Thought told DX. “In short, that was the most depressing article ever. Not ‘EVER,’ but it was pretty heavy. I remember when it went down.”