Harry Shearer sues Vivendi over Spinal Tap profits

Harry Shearer
Harry Shearer (Image credit: Getty)

Actor Harry Shearer is suing entertainment group Vivendi after claiming he’d been denied profits from the cult classic film This Is Spinal Tap.

In a lawsuit filed at the Central District Court of California on Monday, the star accuses Vivendi of conducting a “fraudulent accounting for revenues from music copyrights” through Universal – as well as mismanaging film and merchandising rights through sister companies such as Studio Canal.

According to Vivendi, Shearer claims he and his co-creators were entitled to just $81 in merchandising income between 1984 and 2006. The firm also reported total income from soundtrack music sales for the four creators of the film was reported by Vivendi as just $98 between 1989 and 2006.

The lawsuit further alleges the company began a “concerted and fraudulent campaign to hide, or grossly underreport, the film’s revenues in order to avoid its profit participation obligations.” It also accuses Vivendi of failing to produce an account of any Spinal Tap revenue over the past two years.

Shearer co-created the 1984 film with Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean on a budget of over $2 million. He also co-wrote the soundtrack and starred as Spinal Tap bassist, Derek Smalls.

Shearer says: “I think it’s important to challenge the status quo, not just for myself but for all my fellow artists, musicians and creators.

“It is stunning that after all this time, the only people who haven’t shared Spinal Tap’s success are those who formed the band and created the film in the first place. We’ve fallen victim to the same sort of fuzzy and falsified entertainment industry accounting schemes that have bedevilled so many other creators.”

The action seeks $125,000,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. Further details will be revealed in due course.

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Former TeamRock news desk member Christina joined our team in late 2015, and although her time working on online rock news was fairly brief, she made a huge impact by contributing close to 1500 stories. Christina also interviewed artists including Deftones frontman Chino Moreno and worked at the Download festival. In late 2016, Christina left rock journalism to pursue a career in current affairs. In 2021, she was named Local Weekly Feature Writer of the Year at the Scottish Press Awards.