Universal Music Group chiefs have denied Tom Petty, Tupac Shakur, and Steve Earle’s master recordings burned in a 2008 fire on the Universal Studios backlot.
Earle, Petty’s widow Jane and representatives for Shakur’s heirs are parties in a class-action lawsuit demanding damages for losses from the fire, which reportedly resulted in the loss of work by artists including Eminem, Nirvana, John Coltrane, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, Ella Fitzgerald, and Judy Garland.
However, according to Billboard magazine, Universal’s lawyers filed a declaration on Wednesday, stating an investigation had found that the trio’s masters were safe. With Courtney Love’s band Hole having withdrawn from the lawsuit based on assurances their masters were safe, Soundgarden is reportedly the only plaintiffs in the case whose masters remain unaccounted for – and an investigation into their whereabouts is ongoing.
Emails filed as part of the declaration claim the artists only lost secondary production tapes and video products, assets that are replaceable from alternate copies.
The plaintiffs were asking for a portion of the proceeds from a legal settlement and a reported insurance payment Universal received after the fire, plus half of whatever value they didn’t cover.
They filed the suit after an investigative report was published in the New York Times Magazine in June, alleging Universal chiefs played down losses from the fire publicly, but that legal and company documents put the losses far higher, stating 500,000 song titles could have been destroyed in the blaze. Universal bosses have denied misrepresenting their losses.