Spinal Tap Plaintiffs Defeat Defendants’ Motion To Dismiss

Historic Litigation Moves Forward with Fraud and Copyright Termination Claims Intact; Co-creators Introduce New Legal Team to Carry Case Forward

August 29, 2018: Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner, the four co-creators of the revered band “Spinal Tap,” and the 1984 film “This is Spinal Tap,” (TIST), today celebrated the favorable ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee in their ongoing $400m lawsuit against French conglomerate Vivendi and its subsidiaries.

Harry Shearer, commenting on behalf of his co-Plaintiffs, said:

“We are pleased with the decision in our ongoing litigation involving the film ‘This is Spinal Tap,’ which allows all of our claims against Vivendi, StudioCanal and Ron Halpern, including the fraud claim, to proceed. We are also confident that we will adequately amend our claims against the defendant Universal Music, as specified by Judge Gee’s order, so we can move forward with those as well. The Court’s ruling makes clear that we can pursue damages both for breach of contract and fraud, including punitive damages, based on the defendants’ failure to properly account to us for our profits in connection with ‘This is Spinal Tap.’ It is equally important that we can pursue our right to recapture our copyright interests and other intellectual property rights in connection with the Spinal Tap film and music, so that we can control our own creative product and benefit from it, as we should have all along. We look forward to finally getting our day in court, at a trial, with the evidence that to date Vivendi has tried to hide from us.”

Further, Spinal Tap creators Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Rob Reiner announced that preeminent entertainment litigator Stanton “Larry” Stein and his team at Russ, August & Kabat, including Bennett Bigman and Irene Lee, have been engaged as new lead counsel in the creators’ ongoing litigation against Vivendi and its affiliated defendants over unpaid revenues, breach of contract, fraud, and ownership of intellectual property rights in the landmark “This is Spinal Tap” case.

Harry Shearer, commenting also on behalf of his co-Plaintiffs, said:

“We are confident that Larry Stein and his team are the right lawyers to lead our case to victory on the merits. I have known and worked with Larry for a long time. Larry is widely recognized as one of Hollywood’s top entertainment litigators and has a long history of successfully challenging self-dealing within giant media corporations such as Vivendi. Larry and his experienced team will help us through the next phase of this litigation to show that not only have we been deprived of fair compensation for our work, but that we are entitled to ownership and control over our film, music, and the Spinal Tap brand itself. I want to thank Peter Haviland and his team at Ballard Spahr for their great work in crafting our claims, and especially for preserving our important fraud claim that Vivendi has desperately tried, but failed, to have dismissed. We look forward to Larry and Peter working together to move this case into the discovery phase, where we can shine a bright light on Vivendi’s improper and fraudulent accounting practices.”

Larry Stein added:

“We welcome the opportunity to build on what Peter and his team have done and to get to the merits of what I am sure will be ground-breaking litigation in protecting valuable rights for not only these four talented individuals, but for all creative artists.”


Further details and a copy of the Plaintiffs’ Opposition to the Defendants’ Motions can be found at www.fairnessrocks.com

About The Film

This is Spinal Tap – produced on a shoestring budget, has become a cult classic since its first theatrical run, in 1984. The film has garnered international praise and acclaim, having been included in “best ever” lists such as The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made; Entertainment Weekly’s 100 Greatest Movies of All Time where it appeared on the “Just Too Beloved to Ignore” list; and the 100 Greatest Movies of All Time list published by Total Film.

The band, composed of Shearer, Guest and McKean, performing as their beloved stage personae in the company of a rotating cast of percussionists willing to risk the kit (as so many of their predecessors have been accident prone), has toured the world multiple times since the film’s release. Hundreds of thousands of Spinal Tap sound recordings have been sold over the ensuing decades and the film has been released on a host of video formats down the years. Full-length Spinal Tap albums are still available for physical sale, download and streaming today.

29 August 2018

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It’s silly season – but for whom?

A chuckle resonated through western media in June when a Japanese water company issued a public apology to its customers when it was revealed that one of their employees, a 64 year old man, had periodically started his lunch break 3 minutes early for a “change of pace”, totalling 69 minutes over a period of 7 months. As punishment, the company docked the culprit half a day’s pay, apologising profusely for their employee’s “deeply regrettable” behaviour. 

It is difficult to fathom what this Japanese company would make of work habits in the UK and Europe at the best of times, let alone during the summer months. The so-called ‘Silly Season’, occurring from July to August, marks a ‘shutdown’ for major industries – from parliament to education and some small businesses – as they close their doors to take a well-deserved break. Silly season is named after the emergence of frivolous stories in the media during the annual holiday time downing of tools. Even the notoriously frantic world occupied by bankers, lawyers and accountants sees the pace of business decelerate in holiday periods. Who can blame them? The health benefits reaped are undeniable: less time spent glued to a screen means more time spent on often-neglected leisurely pursuits, family and friends. 

But what about the communications industry? Is it appropriate for PR professionals to be out-of-office during the summer and other holiday months? With PR being a notoriously difficult game of ‘getting there first’ and ‘controlling the message’ – probably not. The handling of any reputation is delicate and requires consistent attention to any reverberations in the mediasphere, to present an effective, sure-footed response.

During the silly season, otherwise innocuous stories can take on a life and longevity of their own. Just ask Boris Johnson. Though the audience may be somewhat diminished and those that remain somewhat distracted, nonetheless, for communications professionals at least, silly season rarely allows for taking your eye off the ball. 

9 August 2018

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Youth, I do adore thee

The race to capture the millennial vote reached the height of farcicality this week when the Conservatives launched an online competition for ‘Love Island’ water-bottles, branded with the phrase “Don’t let Corbyn mug you off”. The water-bottles could be won in exchange for personal information, seemingly as part of the Conservative party’s ongoing efforts to target the all-powerful youth vote. The stunt was deemed a resounding flop, and Momentum, the pro-Labour campaign group, responded with the playground taunt: “Dear Tories, no matter how hard you graft, young people won’t want to couple up with you. All the best, younger voters.”

Traditionally, older generations have disapproved of the novel practices of their youthful counterparts, with the notable American lawyer Adlai E. Stevenson warning his contemporaries in 1952 that “nothing so dates a man as to decry the younger generation”. Times could not have changed more. A defining feature of today is not so much disapproval of the younger generation, but rather a race to keep up with them. Generation Y most notably revealed itself as a force to be reckoned with in the May 2017 election. Labour seats skyrocketed, to the detriment of the Conservative majority, largely on Corbyn’s harnessing of the youth vote; only 22% of 20-24 year olds voted Tory, whereas 62% voted Labour. Political success was thus revealed to be partly founded on a party’s ability to learn the lingo.

Millennials are transforming the way that we communicate. Attention spans are at an all-time low, with recent research finding that the average attention-span of a human is 8 seconds, inferior to that of a goldfish. The youth culture of compulsive social-media scrolling has been primarily blamed for this. Such practice puts enormous pressure on businesses and political parties alike to create eye-catching content to isolate the attention of the consumer or voter, being brief enough to communicate all relevant information before the young scroller’s attention is exhausted. This is clearly having an effect on the quality of our political landscape. Consider the Brexit Leave campaign bus that claimed that £350 million per week could be transplanted from the EU to the NHS, or the election of the prolific twitter-user Donald Trump, whose quotable, and often outrageous, account is followed by 53.4 million people.

The communication habits of Generation Y are thus filtering outwards, creating a world where brevity, shock and celebrity hold more sway than fact. Looking forward, one asks if the hitherto responsible corporations, desperate to influence young people, will follow this path or hold themselves to a higher standard. Amidst an increasingly dark world of pessimism and negativity, the positive power of humour in engagement should not be forgotten. It is up to professional advisors to signal the consequences of short-sighted banality, and guide corporations towards the correct balance between accuracy and accessibility in their media.

02 August 2018

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