Perhaps you recall the story of Universal Music Group and the great master recording vault fire of 2008. If you don’t, you can catch up here.
I sort of lost track of what was happening with the case after I posted that, so here’s a better late than never update.
The lawsuit mentioned did get its day in court, and the outcome, while likely correct from a contract law standpoint, is still some pretty strong ass bullshit from the position of anyone who has ever put their heart and soul into creating anything. Basically, Universal doesn’t owe anyone anything for the destruction of their life’s work, because it stopped being their life’s work when they signed their record deals.
As Rolling Stone explains, the judge denied that UMG had “failed to properly maintain a valuable placed in its possession” because the recordings and master tapes were UMG’s possessions and it could destroy them however it wanted to.
Judge Kronstadt also decided that UMG didn’t owe the artists a cut from the insurance money, because the contracts didn’t make any specific references to insurance claims and there was no legal precedent requiring the publisher to “exercise reasonable care to avoid economic loss in storing its own property”—referring, again, to the music that other people made but UMG “owned.” Essentially, the takeaway is that the artists signed away any right to be concerned about what happened to these recordings the moment they agreed to have them published, which is a little grim.