October 20, 2016 | Maddalena Rinaldi

It appears that a lawsuit over the 1984 classic film Spinal Tap has been turned up to 11.


Main actor Harry Shearer – also famous for his extensive voice acting on The Simpsons – has launched a $125 million lawsuit citing breach of contract and fraud against Studiocanal and Vivendi. Despite the film’s huge cultural and financial success, according to Hollywoodreporter, “Shearer’s company Century of Progress Productions alleges that the four lead creatives have received just $81 in merchandising income and $98 in musical sales income in the past three decades from the franchise.”


Shearer announced the lawsuit via Twitter with the hashtag #fairnessrocks and alleges the studio have also failed to account for the film’s profits since 2013. Speaking to Rolling Stone, actor-director Rob Reiner also claims: “It’s impossible that Vivendi’s income from music sales and merchandising totaled just $179 over a more than 20-year period.”  Shearer is also requesting the court to award damages, along with awarding the trademarks to the name ‘Spinal Tap’ and his character ‘Derek Smalls’.


The importance of copyright and the ownership of rights holders is particularly highlighted by this case. If successful in his lawsuit, Shearer would potentially gain a huge financial windfall by gaining legal permission to sell Spinal Tap branded merchandise. This would additionally set a precedent for an individual against a multi-national corporation in the world of intellectual property rights. Our recommendation? Make sure you speak with a lawyer before signing anything to do with rights!


Article written by Jonty Simmons