As it exists in pop culture, Spinal Tap is a strange entity. The band is fictional, created for the Rob Reiner-directed mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap, but their existence has continued well beyond that initial film (they are even technically a real group in The Simpsons universe). Unfortunately, it's also been a subject of controversy for nearly two years now thanks to an on-going lawsuit that was filed in 2016 actor Harry Shearer - and this week saw a major move forward as it was ruled that the case has credence and will continue.
Deadline has published the latest update in this case, noting that a motion from the defense trying to get a fraud claim dismissed has been denied by a judge. As of now, Harry Shearer - who has been joined in the suit by co-stars Christopher Guest and Michael McKean, as well as Rob Reiner - are continuing to seek $400 million in damages from mass media conglomerate Vivendi, and its movie and television distributing arm, StudioCanal (which currently holds the rights to This Is Spinal Tap).
According to the claim from the Spinal Tap actors/bandmates and the director, they have received a "paltry amount" of money from the various music and merchandising sales of the years, and they are seeking retribution. The suit includes charges of breach of contract and fraud - the latter being the one that Vivendi tried to have dismissed.
Right now, all kinds of Spinal Tap material is available for purchase, as you can not only buy actual soundtracks featuring music from the group, but also classic accouterments like band T-shirts. Apparently the people who actually created the whole thing (Harry Shearer, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Rob Reiner are not only credited in the film for writing the script, but also the songs). It's definitely never a great situation when money from a creative effort goes to the business in charge of releasing it instead of the individuals responsible for the creation in the first place. And considering the original claim said that the four creators made $81 off merchandising between 1984 and 2006, it really doesn't sound like they are getting what they are owed.
This is definitely a step forward for the This Is Spinal Tap lawsuit, but the time table from this point forward is a bit unclear. It's taken two years so far to get to this point, so when exactly this will get to the next step is unclear. It is a case that we are following along with, though, so be on the lookout for the latest news in the case.
And if you haven't seen This Is Spinal Tap in a while, do yourself a favor and either load up your copy your purchase one - because it remains one of the funniest comedies of the modern era.