Harry Shearer is Suing to Get Back the Rights to Spinal Tap

October 19, 2016
Mr Smalls goes to Washington.

Comedian, writer and voice of half of Springfield, Harry Shearer, is taking media giant Vivendi to court for fraud and breach of contract. Shearer is seeking $125 million for damages incurred and lost income owing to Vivendi’s  and their subsidiary, Studio Canal’s, handling of the film This is Spinal Tap and its related products and trademarks.

In case you’ve been living under a rock, This is Spinal Tap is one of the greatest comedies of all time. The Rob Reiner-directed opus, which follows the failing fortune of terrible metal band Spinal Tap (Shearer, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean), popularised the notion of the mockumentary, a form that Guest in particular went on to master (his latest, Mascots, is brilliant, and it just hit Netflix), and spawned a remarkably robust franchise that produced everything but a sequel – there are albums, books, toys, apparel, and the band even perform live on the semi-reg.

Now, according to Shearer’s suit, all that ancillary love has netted him and his cohorts, who first created Tap back in the late ’70s, a grand total of $179 over the last 30 years – a pitiful sum that he ascribes to supremely dodgy accounting practices on Vivendi’s part.

Even if Shearer’s estimate of damages is high (and often they are in situations like this, where the expectation is that a lower figure will eventually be negotiated), the idea that three decades of Spinal Tap has earned its creators less than $200 is obscene. Shearer is also demanding the rights to the Spinal Tap brand be returned to him and his partners, a move which, if successful, bodes well for the future. We’ll be watching this one carefully. You can read the whole thing here.

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