Facing a class action lawsuit from singer-songwriter Steve Earle and other artists, Universal Music Group claims that the master recordings of Earle and two of the other plaintiffs were not actually lost in a 2008 vault fire.

Billboard reports that, on Wednesday (Aug. 21), UMG attorney Scott Edelman filed a declaration reporting that Earle, Tom Petty and Tupac Shakur did not "suffer irreparable damage in the fire." Edelmen's declaration includes emails, sent in late July and early August, which explain that UMG had determined that none of Petty's original masters were destroyed in the fire, and that while Earle and Shakur did lose some assets, the record company reportedly has "viable alternate copies" of those items.

"Plaintiffs have propounded broad discovery and refused to agree to a stay of discovery pending this Court's ruling on UMG's motion to dismiss the Complaint and forthcoming motion to dismiss the First Amended Complaint," writes Edelman, suggesting that the plantiffs are asking UMG to determine the losses of specific artists and do other discovery work in order to recruit other potential plaintiffs. "In particular, Plaintiffs have served discovery seeking voluminous materials that go well beyond materials related to Plaintiffs and their claims."

Attorneys for the plaintiffs removed the rock band Hole from the lawsuit on Friday (Aug. 16), after UMG reported that none of their masters were destroyed in the fire. In addition to Earle and the estates of Petty and Shakur, both of whom are dead, Soundgarden are also plantiffs in the lawsuit.

"The plaintiffs' attorneys have already been informed that the original masters for virtually every artist named in their meritless lawsuit are safe in our storage facilities or theirs," says UMG in a statement. "The fact that they still pursue legal action, and even try to drum up additional bogus claims, makes clear that their true motivation is something other than concern for artist masters."

Replies Howard King, an attorney for the plantiffs, "UMG claims in their press releases they now want to be transparent with the artist community, after 10 years of concealment and deception. Their true motives are revealed by their efforts to thwart the artists’ attempts to obtain actual proof of which master recordings were destroyed."

On July 18, UMG filed a motion to dismiss the class action lawsuit. The suit follows the June publication of a New York Times article reporting that the record label underplayed the extent of the damage incurred at the time of the 2008 vault fire. According to the story, as many as 500,000 of the master recordings in UMG's possession -- from artists including Patsy Cline, Lynyrd Skynyrd, George Jones, Sheryl Crow and many others -- were damaged or destroyed in the blaze, a fact that the record label allegedly attempted to hide, despite internal knowledge of what had been lost.

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