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One phase of Spinal Tap’s IP litigation settles

Harry Shearer played the bassist in the iconic and much-beloved film “This is Spinal Tap,” a movie that retains vast global popularity decades after its 1984 release. Spinal Tap – a film about a fictional British rock group – continues to be a cash cow from myriad marketing standpoints.

Shearer and his fellow Tap actors are of course well aware that cash registers continue to ring in connection with the film’s continued play, its soundtrack and licensing/merchandizing ventures. In fact, Shearer and his movie mates have assumed roles as litigants in recent years in multi-phased litigation that charges defendants with wrongdoing and seeks restoration of lucrative intellectual property rights surrounding the film.

The Tap crew members’ dispute has squarely focused on two connected defendants, namely, StudioCanal and Universal Music. Those entities have for years collectively controlled the film’s movie and soundtrack rights. Shearer’s litigation – joined in by his fellow actors after commencement – targets both companies as wrongdoers that have manipulated financial data to shortchange the film’s principals on royalty payments. The litigation also alleges the unlawful depriving of relevant copyrights owned by the plaintiffs.

The litigation spotlighting Universal Music settled just last week, with industry insiders paying close attention to the outcome. The plaintiffs invoked a termination right under federal law that enables copyright owners who relinquished rights to reclaim them after a 35-year period. Universal reportedly agreed that the right extends to recordings.

Although the settlement concludes Universal’s litigation involvement, the dispute with StudioCanal continues concerning the film itself. A recent media report on the matter states that, “It remains to be seen whether any common ground and, therefore, a settlement can be found there too.”

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