‘Spinal Tap’ Lawsuit: Harry Shearer Files $125 Million Complaint Over Rights and Residuals

Shearer co-created the fake band in the ‘70s with Christopher Guest and Michael McKean.

This is Spinal Tap

Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest and Michael Mckean in “This Is Spinal Tap.”


Harry Shearer, co-creator of the rockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap,” is suing media giant Vivendi for $125 million over rights and residuals.

In a complaint filed Monday, Shearer, who portrayed Derek Smalls in the 1984 film, says that “Vivendi and its agents including StudioCanal executive Ron Halpern, have engaged in anti-competitive business practices by manipulating 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.”

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Shearer co-created the fake band Spinal Tap in the ‘70s with Christopher Guest and Michael McKean. The film, directed by Rob Reiner, followed the group as they promoted their fictional album “Smell the Glove.” The mockumentary received great reviews and in turn, has become a classic over the years.

Aside from wanting the rights back to “This Is Spinal Tap,” Shearer claims that the movie has generated millions in revenue but the four creators have only received $81 in merchandising income and $98 in musical sales income in the past three decades from the franchise. The original 1982 production deal had the creators getting 40 percent of the net profits, yet the complaint says that “over the past two years, Vivendi has failed to provide accounting statements at all.”

“Particularly given that Vivendi has offset fraudulent accounting for revenues from music copyrights against equally dubious revenue streams for film and merchandising rights also controlled by Vivendi subsidiaries, Shearer is concurrently filing notices of copyright termination for publishing and recording rights in Spinal Tap songs he co-wrote and co-recorded, as well as in the film itself,” states the complaint, which you can read in full here.

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Shearer also shared a video on Twitter where he explained more about the lawsuit and how it’s time for “fair play, fair pay.”

“‘Tap’s’ a movie I’m very proud to have had a part in creating,” he says in the clip. “A lot of people seem to love it. And it seems to have made a considerable amount of money from film and music distribution for some corporations but not for its creators.”

He alleges that Vivendi has told him that the film “hasn’t been profitable,” despite all its success.

“Filing a claim like this one is neither fun nor easy,” he adds. “Going up against a major multinational is not nearly as enjoyable as playing too loud in Carnegie Hall. But people who are squashed by large corporations can’t fight back unless they have significant resources of their own…I think it’s important to challenge the status quo, not just for myself but I hope for all my fellow artists, musicians and creators. After all, they depend for their livelihoods on a fair return for their hard work.”

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