This is Spinal Tap suing Vivendi, StudioCanal now for $400 million in lost profit

The band is back together, but this time, Spinal Tap’s performers — Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer — along with the filmmaker Rob Reiner who documented them in the monumental mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, have joined forces to sue Vivendi and StudioCanal for upward of $400 million in profits they claim the companies have withheld from them.

McKean, Guest and Reiner joined Shearer’s initial lawsuit filed in October, which then asked for $125 million.

You can read their 22-page amended complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court, Central District of California.

It reads in part:

This Is Spinal Tap and its music, which Shearer, Guest, McKean and Reiner co-wrote, including such songs as “Sex Farm” and “Stonehenge,” have remained popular for more than thirty years, and have earned considerable sums for the French conglomerate Vivendi S.A.

But not for the creators. Defendant Vivendi and its agents, including StudioCanal executive Ron Halpern, have engaged in anti-competitive business practices by manipulating the accounting between Vivendi film and music subsidiaries and have engaged in fraud to deprive the Spinal Tap creators of a fair return for their work.

To address this fraud, Mr. Shearer through his company Century of Progress Productions (“CPP”), Mr. Guest, Mr. Reiner through his company Rob Reiner Productions, Mr. McKean through his company United Heathen and Spinal Tap Productions (“Plaintiffs”) bring the present action seeking not less than four hundred million dollars ($400,000,000) in compensatory and punitive damages. CPP has also issued notices of copyright termination and has filed trademark applications to secure creative rights. CPP seeks a judicial declaration vindicating those rights, which have been abandoned by Vivendi.

Since the movie’s release in 1984, This Is Spinal Tap music, merchandise, classic phrases and images have become ubiquitous in popular culture. The movie itself had two theatrical releases and has been re-sold in a number of commercial formats. A series of companies has profited from merchandising, music, film, television and video rights. For many years, Vivendi and its subsidiaries, including Canal Plus, StudioCanal, StudioCanal Image and Universal Music Group (“Vivendi”), have claimed and administered many of these rights and have been responsible for accounting to Plaintiffs.

But according to Vivendi, the four creators’ share of total worldwide merchandising income between 1984 and 2013 was $81 (eighty-one) dollars. Between 1989 and 2013 total income from music sales was $98 (ninety-eight) dollars. Over the past three years, Vivendi has failed to provide accounting statements at all.

Vivendi has engaged and is continuing to engage in anti-competitive and unfair business practices and has abandoned its obligations to enforce intellectual property rights in This Is Spinal Tap, unlawfully depriving Plaintiffs of substantial revenues. Vivendi has also failed, and continues to fail, to account honestly for income actually received from This Is Spinal Tap.

Shearer, for his part, has been Tweeting this news out to his followers.

You can find out more, and if you’re an artist, fight for your rightful profits via

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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