Tupac Shakur Estate, Soundgarden Leave Universal Fire Class Action

Universal Fire - Getty - H 2019
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The lawsuit against Universal Music Group over original recordings that were believed to be lost in a 2008 fire continues to thin as Soundgarden and Tupac Shakur's estate on Friday dropped their claims.

In June, UMG was sued on behalf of five artists whose master recordings were feared to have been destroyed in the 2008 fire on Universal's backlot: Soundgarden, Tupac Shakur, Tom Petty, Hole and Steve Earle.

Now, only Jane Petty and Earle remain as plaintiffs. Discovery is ongoing with regard to their claims and the parties on March 6 filed a joint motion urging the court to rule on UMG's pending motion to dismiss the complaint, which was taken under submission following a hearing in November.

Soundgarden and Tom Whalley, who represents the Afeni Shakur Trust which controls Tupac Shakur's estate, on Friday voluntarily dismissed their claims against UMG. Though, they did reserve the right to later rejoin as class members.

In a March 5 internal memo which was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter, UMG's lead archivist Pat Kraus says his team has reviewed more than 150,000 assets following nearly 400 inquiries from artists. 

"So far, less than 0.1 percent of those assets might have been original recordings affected by the fire," he writes. "For the very few original recordings we believe were impacted, almost all had previously been commercially released and we have located safeties, copies or digital alternatives for every single album."

Kraus also says there was one unreleased album that was affected, but they've found multiple copies of it and it could be released if the artist wants. He notes that each individual artist or estate will decide whether to publicly release the information UMG's archivists give them about the status of their assets.

"I don’t want to make this process sound either clinical or triumphant," writes Kraus. "This is emotionally charged, often painful, work. Many artists and estates were justifiably horrified by the report suggesting that original recordings were lost.... "We continue to meticulously review assets in our facilities around the world and will live up to our commitment to be transparent and respond to every artist or artist's representative’s inquiry."

The dispute and following archival investigation began after a New York Times Magazine piece called "The Day the Music Burned" sparked widespread panic that original recordings of up to half a million songs had been lost. Kraus says while the facility did contain everything from audio and video recordings to legal papers and liner notes, it only comprised about 5 percent of the company's total assets at the time of the fire and reports of the extent of the loss were "wildly" overstated.