Photo by Chris Weeks/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

‘Spinal Tap’ Defendants File Motion To Dismiss Lawsuit

Most legal battles involving royalties, copyrights et. al. are usually very messy.  The lawsuit around the film and featured music in 1984’s This is Spinal Tap is no exception.

Harry Shearer (who originally filed the lawsuit), Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and director Rob Reiner are suing media distribution companies Vivendi and StudioCanal for $400 million stemming from owed royalties pertaining to the mockumentary, itself, and various licensing of its original music created for the film.

After seemingly forever since the suit’s original October 2016 filing, the defendants’ representation Irell & Manella have responded, and they have major problems with the claims.

In their motion filed February 28 in the United States District Court (Central District of California), Irell & Manella state the entire case should be thrown out based on the following:

  • The plaintiffs never requested that an accountant audit records on potential royalties owed, which is customary to do before filing a lawsuit.
  • Spinal Tap Productions, the co-owned by all four plaintiffs, is in charge to collecting royalties from Vivendi and StudioCanal.  The plaintiffs signed inducement letter, which effectively signed away their individual rights to sue.
  • While This is Spinal Tap is a beloved film, the theatrical revenue in the U.S. since its release has only been $5 million, and “revenue from other sources and territories has been similarly modest.”
  • As for the film’s original music, the defendants claim the music was created on a work-for-hire basis, which means Shearer, McKean and Guest never owned that music in the first place and that it’s the property of their employer (aka: the studio/distribution company.)


In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, plantiffs’ attorney Peter Haviland balked at the motion calling it a “sadly predictable response” and that “…the creators' claims to intellectual property rights to the film and its music – both trademark and copyright – cannot be dismissed through this legal standing challenge from Vivendi."

The initial hearing on this suit is scheduled for May 5, 2017.


Erica Banas is a rock/classic rock reporter. The first man she ever loved was Jack Daniel.  (True story.)