Last June, the New York Times Magazine published an investigative report claiming hundreds of thousands of Universal Music Group recordings, including many masters, were lost in the 2008 Universal Studios backlot fire. Subsequently, a group of musicians and musicians’ estates, including Tom Petty, Soundgarden, Hole, Steve Earle, and estate of the late Tupac Shakur, filed a class action lawsuit against UMG, alleging the label had been negligent in protecting their masters, attempted to hide how devastating the fire had been, and should be required to share any insurance settlement it may have received following the fire. On Monday, Judge John A. Kronstadt dismissed the lawsuit, which several musicians had left in the intervening months, leaving only Tom Petty’s former wife Jane Petty as its remaining plaintiff.
According to Rolling Stone, Judge Kronstadt dismissed five of the six claims in the suit, “including allegations of breach of contract, negligence and reckless conduct.” Per the Times, his dismissal further stated that Petty’s claim was deficient in part because, technically speaking, Tom Petty didn’t even own the masters that were lost; they belonged to his then-label, MCA, which is now owned by UMG.
“Since Mr. Petty did not own them, the judge ruled, Ms. Petty could not sue under a claim for ‘bailment,’ or safekeeping,” writes the Times. Following the ruling, UMG said in a statement, “As we have said all along, the New York Times Magazine articles at the root of this litigation were stunning in their overstatement and inaccuracy,” an accusation the Times refutes.
“We stand by Jody Rosen’s reporting,” New York Times Magazine editor Jake Silverstein said in a statement. “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.”