Harry Shearer sues over ‘Spinal Tap’ profits

Comedian and co-creator of cult mockumentary takes action against French studio

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, which it acquired in1989.

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 best films of all time lists since its 1984 release.


This Is Spinal Tap was made for $2.25 million, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks $125 million from Vivendi, but did not give a breakdown of how much that amount represents in profits Vivendi received from the film and how much Shearer says he is entitled to in additional damages.

The film earned $4.5 million in cinemas when it was released, and its re-release earned $193,000, 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.

Profit share

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

The company said their share of profits on songs such as Sex Farm and Stonehenge was $98, according to the lawsuit, which also said Vivendi had not provided accounting for the film’s profits since 2013.

The band included Shearer, Christopher Guest and Michael McKean.

Actor-director Rob Reiner also helped 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.