Universal Music Group Maintains ‘Many’ of Artist Plaintiffs’ Masters Were Not Lost in 2008 Fire

Soundgarden, Steve Earle and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac filed a $100M+ lawsuit against Universal Music in June.

Universal Music Group responded Monday to an amended claim filed last Friday by attorneys representing Soundgarden, Steve Earle and the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac, saying that the “many” of the plaintiffs’ original masters were NOT lost in a 2008 warehouse fire on the Universal backlot and that their claims were “baseless.”

Read the statement obtained by TheWrap in full below:

“Over a month ago, without even knowing if the 2008 fire on the NBC/Universal Studios lot affected their clients, plaintiffs’ attorneys rushed to pursue meritless legal claims. UMG’s dedicated global team is actively working directly with our artists and their representatives to provide accurate information concerning the assets we have and what might have been lost in the fire. Even though our work is not yet complete, we have already determined that original masters for many of the artists named in the lawsuit were not lost in the 2008 fire. We will not be distracted from our focus on providing our artists with full transparency even as the plaintiffs’ attorneys continue to pursue these baseless claims.”

Back in June, five plaintiffs — the four mentioned above and the band Hole — filed a $100+ million lawsuit against UMG, accusing the label of not adequately protecting the master recordings and misrepresenting the extent of the damage from the fire to affected artists. The lawsuit asserted that affected artists are entitled to 50% of the money UMG received from successful litigation and insurance claims filed after the fire. The suit said the company did not disclose them.

In the amended claim filed Friday, Hole was removed from the plaintiffs, “solely based on UMG’s written assurances to Plaintiffs’ counsel that no Hole Master Recordings were lost in the Fire.”

The four remaining plaintiffs are suing for breach of contract — revenue sharing, breach of contract — bailment, negligence, reckless conduct, conversion, and misrepresentation but omission. They claim the warehouse the masters (the original source from which all copies are produced) was a “firetrap.”

“UMG breached its duty of care through its negligence in storing the Master Recordings in the firetrap that was the Universal Studios backlot warehouse. And given UMG’s concealment of the loss of the Master Recordings for eleven years, it should be “presumed to have willfully, or by gross negligence, permitted the loss or injury to occur,” the lawsuit read.

The suit also says the plaintiffs are entitled to a percentage of the substantial funds UMG recovered from its insurance claims after the fire.

While UMG confirms that assets were lost in the fire, its continued focus is evaluating what was and wasn’t lost. The New York Times estimates assets from “hundreds more artists,” including Dr. Martin Luther King, were affected by the blaze.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.