Judge Dismisses Trial for Fire in 2008 UMG Safe

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Illustration to article titled Judge Dismisses Trial for 2008 Fire in Universal Music Group Vault

Photo: David McNew (Getty Images)

According to Rolling stoneJustice John A. Kronstadt dismissed the high-profile lawsuit against Universal Music Group. The class action was first brought by several artists and domains for dead artists (including Soundgarden, Hole, Steve Earle and the Tupac Shakur domain) last year after a New York Times magazine claimed history that a fire in the UMG vault in 2008 destroyed much more recordings and master tapes that the music publisher originally claimed. The accusers claimed that UMG deliberately minimized the damage from the fire while filing massive insurance claims to recover the losses, not to mention any of the artists whose work was destroyed.

The judge, however, had a different opinion. A number of the original plaintiffs had abandoned the class action before, so it was already on fragile ground, but the judge’s decision was basically that UMG is the one who lost something here, not the artists involved, because he owned the rights to this music, not the artists who created the music. As Rolling stone explains, the judge denied that UMG did not “properly retain property in its possession” because the tapes and tapes belonged to UMG and that he could destroy them as he wished.

Judge Kronstadt also decided that UMG should not owe artists a cut from insurance money, as the contracts made no specific reference to insurance claims and there was no legal precedent forcing the publisher to “exercise due diligence to avoid economic loss in the storage of one’s own property” – referring, again, to music that other people have made but that UMG “owned”. Essentially, the point to remember is that the artists have given up any right to be concerned about what happened to these recordings when they agreed to publish them, which is a bit grim (and a pretty clear indication that judge John A. Kronstadt never recorded an album). Rolling stone notes that another trial is “technically possible”, but that it should be based on “a completely different set of legal arguments”.

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