Chris Cornell‘s widow Vicky is suing Soundgarden over alleged unpaid royalties as the band attempt to get the demo files they need to finish their new album and final record with Cornell. Vicky claims Soundgarden are ‘strong arming’ her. In the lawsuit there is a legal letter from Soundgarden that leaks the titles of the unheard material. A Soundgarden member took a vicious shot at the Chris Cornell tribute show a few months ago. Below are Soundgarden’s allegations:
“We understand that the Soundgarden files consist of any number of files, but include the following known master recordings, which may exist in multiple forms (e.g. from demo and rough recordings, to more polished versions). To be clear, it is Soundgarden’s position that any music content (instrumental and/or vocals, demos, or rough recordings) stored on the hard drive by any or all members of Soundgarden (including any recordings containing only the performances of Chris Cornell intended for Soundgarden) constitutes Soundgarden partnership property.
Road Less Traveled – 4:10 (Chris Cornell/Matt Cameron)
Orphans 3:18 (Chris Cornell/Matt Cameron)
At Orphans Door 5:05 (Chris Cornell/Matt Cameron)
Cancer 4:00 (Chris Cornell)
Stone Age Mind 4:22 (Chris Cornell)
Ahead of the Dog 3:47 (Chris Cornell/Kim Thayil)
Merrmas 4:32 (Chris Cornell/Ben Shepherd)
By this letter, Soundgarden demands that Ms. Cornell return the Soundgarden files to Soundgarden. We are hopeful that this issue can be resolved easily and voluntarily. We do note that this formal demand letter follows several previous attempts to obtain the Soundgarden files from Ms. Cornell. For example, we understand that Matt Cameron and Ms. Cornell acknowledged her custody of the Soundgarden files and stated that ‘I will have to sort a time to have the hard drive sent back to Tom so he can extract the SG files to send to you.’ We understand from subsequent emails that Ms. Cornell discussed returning the Soundgarden files with Peter Paterno in February 2019. However, the Soundgarden files were never returned to Soundgarden.
Matt Cameron again requested return of the Soundgarden files by email to Ms. Cornell in late July 2019. Ms. Cornell’s response to this request was to take the position, in an email dates July 27, 2019, that she ‘will not release anything without proper set up and without say in the management…’
With respect, and again for the sake of clarity, this is not a legally justifiable position. Ms. Cornell has no valid standing or other basis to retain partnership property to the exclusion of Soundgarden, or to condition her return of such property. Under Washington general partnership law, Ms. Cornell is not even a partner in Soundgarden, but following Mr. Cornell’s passing is considered a ‘transferee’ of Mr. Cornell’s ‘transferable interest’ in the partnership. Ms. Cornell therefore has no associated management or other such partnership rights.
Ms. Cornell simply has no ownership rights in this partnership property. Indeed, pursuant to Washington law, even full partners are not considered co-owners of partnership property and have no legally recognized interest in partnership property which is transferrable, either voluntarily or involuntarily. Property acquired by the partnership is property of the partnership and not of the partners individually. A partner may use or possess partnership property only on behalf of the partnership.
We trust that you agree that this is a time-sensitive and important matter. Mr. Cornell’s custody of the Soundgarden files – which are important partnership intellectual and artistic property – although perhaps well intended, is improper, and Ms. Cornell clearly has no right to retain this property, or to attempt to leverage this unfortunate circumstance against Soundgarden to obtain concessions or benefit to which she is not otherwise legally entitled.”
On Vicky’s end, her lawyer wrote, “In 2017, while at his home in Florida, Chris recorded a number of unreleased sound recordings. At issue in this case are seven of those recordings, which were solely created by Chris on his laptop at his personal recording studio, known as TNC Studios (the Unreleased Sound Recordings). Critically, there was never any agreement between Chris and the Band to treat the Unreleased Sound Recordings as property of the Band or the purported Partnership. Nor was there any writing assigning any of Chris’ interest in the Unreleased Sound Recordings to the Band, the Surviving Band Members, and/or the Partnership. Rather, Chris was the sole and exclusive owner and copyright holder of the Unreleased Sound Recordings which he created and fixed in a tangible medium of expression.”
A disagreement over a producer for the unheard material was also detailed, which appeared to lead to some sort of falling out. Media quotes by Kim Thayil are also cited in the lawsuit.