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Simpsons actor files $125 million fraud suit

When Florida residents work hard and create their own work product, they expect to be paid for their work. Indeed, this is a central principle underlying our economic system, as individuals’ hard work is to be rewarded and protected.

The law imposes certain protections as well. For instance, individuals who create certain works may be protected by copyright laws, which can be enforced against others who violate those protections.

For example, actor and writer Harry Shearer of “The Simpsons” recently filed a lawsuit against a company named Vivendi alleging he was underpaid music royalties for his work on the classic movie “This Is Spinal Tap.” Shearer was one of the co-creators of the film and soundtrack. However, he claims the total income for the soundtrack music sales reported by Vivendi from 1989 to 2006 was only $98, while the total income for merchandise around that period reported by Vivendi was $81.

In the lawsuit, Shearer is seeking $125 million in compensatory and punitive damages. The lawsuit alleges these damages are proper because Vivendi engaged in unfair competition and business practices, including fraud through concealing the true accounting of the monies owed to Shearer.

It remains to be seen how the lawsuit will be resolved. However, the case illustrates how a serious business dispute can result when there are disagreements between business partners as to the proper compensation that is due.

Fraud claims in particular can be contentious due to the nature of the allegations involved. Moreover, when a party willfully conceals or misleads with respect to certain information or compensation, there may be a more extensive process needed to uncover the fraud and determine just how much the defrauded party has been damaged.

Source: Music Business Worldwide, “Universal caught up in $125M lawsuit as Spinal Tap star accuses Vivendi of fraud, Tim Ingham, Oct. 18, 2016

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