Universal Music Group Fire Class Action Could Come Down to One Thing: Who Owns the Masters?

The class action lawsuit against Universal Music Group (UMG) over the assumed destruction of as many as 500,000 master recordings due a 2008 fire in the Universal Studios backlot where they were stored is likely to face challenges over the question of property ownership of the masters, Billboard reports. Artists who have joined the suit include Soundgarden, Hole, Steve Earl, the Tom Petty estate and the Tupac Shakur estate. While the plaintiffs assert UMG breached its responsibility to protect the recordings, most recording contracts do not explicitly mention that responsibility. Further, a standard music contract gives ownership to the record company, meaning UMG owns the tapes and suffered the loss, not the artist. Read The New York Times investigation, which details the artists’ recordings that were lost in the fire.   

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