Universal Fire
The 2008 Universal Lot Fire [ pinguino kCC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Lawsuits Over UMG Fire Expected Next Week

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LOS ANGELES (CelebrityAccess) A Los Angeles law firm representing recording artists is expected to file legal action as early as next week regarding the massive fire at the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot that destroyed countless master recordings.

“We have many very concerned clients,” attorney Howard King, partner in King, Holmes, Paterno & Soriano, told the Los Angeles Times. “This has a potentially huge impact on their future, coupled with the rather disturbing fact that no one ever told them that their intellectual property may have been destroyed. There is a significant amount of discussion going on, and there will be formal action taken.”

King declined to identify the firm’s clients but said it was more than 10 and less than 100. A UMG spokesman has no comment.

“The claims of the people who have lost their futures in some respects are far more significant than would be dealt with in a class action,” King added. “Class-action suits generally are filed on behalf of many people who are in a similar situation with relatively small claims. The claims of our clients are significant enough to justify individual lawsuits.”

According to a report in the New York Times Magazine, part of the lot damaged by the fire housed a warehouse used by Universal to store archival material, including a section that had been portioned off for use by Universal Music Group.

The fire took place at 2008. At the time, UMG disputed a report that thousands of masters had been damaged or destroyed. However, in confidential documents created in the wake of the fire and obtained by the New York Times, UMG’s internal estimates put the number of assets destroyed at 118,230. Rock classics stored as single masters were lost, including Bill Haley and His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock,” Jackie Brenston and His Delta Cats’ “Rocket 88,” Bo Diddley’s “Bo Diddley/I’m A Man,” Etta James’s “At Last,” the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” and the Impressions’ “People Get Ready.”

Contemporary losses include the recordings of Elton John, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Nine Inch Nails, Soundgarden, Beck, and Eminem among numerous others.

“There is nothing like the original master,” Benmont Tench, keyboardist and founding member of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers, told the Times.  “The master recording is like a painting. … When you stand in front of the original, you are standing there in the presence of the artist. You can take a photo of the painting, but no photo — regardless of how high the resolution might be — can truly capture what’s in the original canvas.”

 

 

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