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Simpsons star Harry Shearer sues French studio over Spinal Tap profits

Published 18/10/2016

Harry Shearer has filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Los Angeles (Paul A Hebert/Invision/AP)
Harry Shearer has filed a lawsuit in a federal court in Los Angeles (Paul A Hebert/Invision/AP)

Comedian Harry Shearer has sued a French film studio over tens of millions of dollars in profits he claims he and his co-creators are owed for creating the classic mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap.

Shearer's lawsuit filed in a federal court in Los Angeles claims the French company Vivendi and its subsidiary StudioCanal withheld profits from the film, its music and its merchandise.

Shearer released a two-minute video on Twitter announcing the lawsuit, urging people to share it with the hashtag #fairnessrocks.

He co-created the satire about a British rock band on the decline, which has been featured on numerous top movie lists of all time since its 1984 release.

This Is Spinal Tap was made for 2.25 million dollars (£1.8 million), the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks 125 million dollars (£101 million) from Vivendi but did not give a breakdown of how much that amount represents in profits Vivendi received and how much Shearer says he is entitled to in additional damages.

The film earned 4.5 million dollars (£3.6 million) in cinemas when it was released, and its re-release earned 193,000 dollars (£156,000), according to figures from box office analysis firm comScore.

Those figures do not take into account money the film earned on the home video market, which would include VHS tapes, DVDs, Blu-Ray and its airings on television and cable.

Vivendi told Shearer and his co-creators that their share of merchandise between the 1984 release of the film and 2013 was 81 dollars (£65), the lawsuit stated.

The company said their share of profits on music on songs such as Sex Farm and Stonehenge was 98 dollars (£79), according to the lawsuit, which also said Vivendi has not provided accounting for the film's profits since 2013.

The band included Shearer, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean, who were later joined by actor-director Rob Reiner to create the film and its music.

Guest, McKean and Reiner are not plaintiffs in the lawsuit filed by Shearer's company, Century of Progress Productions.

Vivendi declined to comment on the lawsuit.

A jury would determine the amount of any damages awarded to Shearer's company.

He is also asking a judge to award him trademarks to the band name Spinal Tap and his character's name, Derek Smalls.

If awarded the trademarks, Shearer could use the names to sell Spinal Tap-related merchandise.

The comedian also voices several characters on the long-running animated series The Simpsons.

AP

Press Association

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