Judge Dismisses Artist Lawsuit Against Universal over 2008 Fire

The class action suit was initially filed by the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac, as well as Hole and Soundgarden
Judge Dismisses Artist Lawsuit Against Universal over 2008 Fire
Following the discovery that a 2008 Universal Studios Hollywood fire destroyed a treasure trove of master recordings, a Los Angeles federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought against Universal Music Group last year by multiple high-profile artists and their estates.

Among those involved in the initial suit were the estates of Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur, in addition to artists such as Hole, Soundgarden and Steve Earle. The 2008 blaze was said to have claimed more than 100,000 audio recordings containing as many as 500,000 songs owned by UMG, including recordings by Elton John, Nirvana, Sheryl Crow and Beck, R.E.M., in addition to those aforementioned artists involved in the lawsuit.

As previously reported, the lawsuit argued that Universal was negligent in protecting its tapes and that the company had a duty to share with artists any income it received from an insurance settlement over the fire. Since the case was first filed last year, however, all plaintiffs in the case against Universal dropped out except for the Estate of Tom Petty, represented by former wife Jane Petty.

Today, Judge John A. Kronstadt of the United States District Court in Los Angeles dismissed her claims, the New York Times reports.

The dismissal was made "without prejudice," the publication explains, and Jane Petty could refile her claim against the label. However, the judge found that Tom Petty's former label, the UMG-owned MCA, owned the rights to his original masters, meaning that since the artist did not own them himself, Jane Petty could not sue UMG under a claim for "bailment" or safekeeping, the NYT explains.

As if press time, Jane Petty has issued no statement regarding the judge's decision.

When the New York Times broke the story last summer, the publication called the incident "the biggest disaster in the history of the music business." UMG hit back, however, saying that the piece contained "numerous inaccuracies."

The publication has continued to stand behind the story and the reporting within.

In a statement, Jake Silverstein, the editor of the Times Magazine, said: "We stand by Jody Rosen's reporting. This ruling does not refute or question the veracity of what we reported: that, contrary to UMG's continued effort to downplay the event, thousands of recordings were lost in the 2008 fire."