Happy Days Cast Not So Happy: Suing CBS & Paramount For Missing Royalties

from the the-fonz-is-too-cool-for-court dept

Apparently most of the cast of the iconic sitcom Happy Days aren't particularly happy with CBS and Paramount right now, as they've filed a lawsuit against the two companies, saying those companies haven't been paying the royalties they owe the cast from home video sales and merchandise sales (there's still Happy Days merch on the market?!?). Notably missing from the lawsuit are stars Ron Howard and Henry Winkler, but much of the rest of the main cast is there. Amazingly, the lawsuit was apparently triggered by a Happy Days cast member seeing a Happy Days slot machine, and wondering why no royalties were being paid. After contacting Paramount to find out how much money was owed from merch, and being told the answer was (of course), none, they moved on to a lawsuit. What struck me as most interesting is that, typically in these types of lawsuits, the studios being sued claim that the actors are wrong. In this case, however, CBS actually put out a statement saying: "We agree that funds are owed to the actors and have been working with them for quite some time to resolve the issue." Of course, that should probably make you wonder if actors from other shows also need to file a lawsuit just to get what's owed to them...


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 6:52am

    Always a fascinating realisation.
    The same companies who are endlessly whining about the money they are losing to file sharing, which in fact involves no money but manage to spend what few moments of free time they can tear away from whining about infringement very specifically and deliberately not paying money to people who by their own rules,they acknowledge they owe money to.

    Of course it's still ludicrous that bit part players in an ancient tv series should think that anything using the name of the show they were once in should entitle them to payments, but at least they and the company they are suing are coming from the same bizarre belief circle.

    Speaking of bizarre beliefs, I must go and make preparations for the Easter bunny who brings chocolate eggs.

     

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  2.  
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    Don, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:02am

    Scott Baio

    I bet you Scott Baio was the one who triggered all this. After his failed spin off, Joanie Loves Chachi, his career went down hill.

     

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  3.  
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    Frankz (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:05am

    Since the actors % share of the merchandising is based on Net profits, Hollywood Accounting will be in full force to show that there was no Net profit on any of it.


    it's still ludicrous that bit part players in an ancient tv series should think that anything using the name of the show they were once in should entitle them to payments,

    Not really, because this appears to be a direct contract issue. It's in their original contracts that they're supposed to be paid a % of all the merchandising. There was a ton of merchandising, but seems to have never been any payments on it.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:06am

    Re: Scott Baio

    He has all those Zapped residuals to life off of.

     

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  5.  
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    FUDbuster (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:08am

    Looking at the plaintiffs, I see we have Potsie, Mrs. C., Ralph Malph, Joanie, and Mr. C. (by his executor). In addition to the Fonz and Richie, I'd say that Chachi is conspicuously absent. God, I thought he was so cool.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:32am

    Will this news bit ever make it on CBS?

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:38am

    Re: Scott Baio

    Someone is forgetting about the masterpiece that was Charles in Charge.

     

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  8.  
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    AG Wright (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:40am

    The rules

    By the rules as they are written the money is owed to these performers. Their likeness and performances ARE getting Paramount money. Since I doubt that that money is going to stockholders, it's amazing how the big TV/movie companies never make any money on their productions, it might as well go to the actors.
    I'll admit that the rules as they are right now are crazy but as long as the game is being played by those rules they might as well be applied to everyone. Unfortunately the only people that will get rich will be the lawyers but hey sharks have to eat too.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Tom The Toe, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:47am

    Changing The Rules

    You will notice now that most stars of these series have their name as "Executive Produce" on their work to help ensure that they get paid.

     

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  10.  
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    Ed C., Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:54am

    The fact that they hadn't been paid is not at all surprising. The slot machine also bears the Happy Days logo and has a wide-screen TV. Do the writers get copyright royalties for showing the episodes? Did the artist who created the iconic logo get paid either? If copyright is really about supporting the creative talent that actually did the work, then they all should be paid till the copyright falls into the public domain. Otherwise, the company is just a property owner collecting monopoly rents on the talents of others and don't deserve a dime.

     

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  11.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 8:10am

    Re:

    "Looking at the plaintiffs, I see we have Potsie, Mrs. C., Ralph Malph, Joanie, and Mr. C. (by his executor)."

    WTF? Someone KILLED Mr. C? And that guy now gets his royalties? Where is it in copyright law that if I shoot Mr. C in the head I get his checks?

    Damn it, now I have to buy a gun and look up Hugh Jackman's address....

     

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  12.  
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    FUDbuster (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 8:18am

    Re: Re:

    You couldn't take Wolverine with a gun.

     

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  13.  
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    Patrick, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 8:20am

    what's owed

    "Of course, that should probably make you wonder if actors from other shows also need to file a lawsuit just to get what's owed to them..."

     

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  14.  
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    Patrick, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 8:21am

    re: what's owed

    "Of course, that should probably make you wonder if actors from other shows also need to file a lawsuit just to get what's owed to them..."

    Hmmm ... kind of like how inventors have to file a lawsuit against companies infringing their patents just to get what's owed to them.

     

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  15.  
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    The eejit (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re: Re:

    But maybe by poisoning him with radioactive waste injected into his veins.

    Wait, no, that's too real...

     

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  16.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 8:38am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Ah, but I wouldn't go after Wolverine Hugh Jackman. No sir, that'd be too tough. Stanley Jobson Swordfish Hugh Jackman, on the other hand....that cock sucker I can take out, I assure you.

    Hell, if that creepy scientologist from Welcome Back Carter can pull one over on him, Dark Helmet sure as shit could....

     

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  17.  
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    chris (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 8:41am

    Re:

    The same companies who are endlessly whining about the money they are losing to file sharing... very specifically and deliberately not paying money to people who by their own rules,they acknowledge they owe money to.

    the thing we fear most is often the thing we see in the mirror, so it stands to reason that a company that has made its fortune by exploiting the works of others would fight to the death to stop what it believes to be the same thing.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 8:57am

    Re: Scott Baio

    That makes sense. Bob Loblaw would be the most litigious of the bunch. Maybe he wrote something about it in the Bob Loblaw Law Blog. What a mouthful!

     

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  19.  
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    staff, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 9:24am

    Re: re: what's owed

    That reminds me of an old tale from Poor Richard. A farmer shows up in court stating his neighbor's bull broke though the fence and killed his cow. The judge rules the neighbor is to recompense the farmer for the loss of his cow. When the farmer tells the judge it was his bull who killed the farmer's cow the judge says that is an important consideration and in that case the farmer should recompense the neighbor for the damage to his fence.

    When it comes to masnick's writing, it's all about the bull.

     

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  20.  
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    JEDIDIAH, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 10:02am

    Tort reform for the rich, crime and punishment for the rich.

    With the copyright maximalists, it's all about making sure that nameless faceless corporations get what's due to them. Screw the individual. Any rhetoric about the actual talent is of course pure hypocrisy. The "little guy" is never the author or the artist. It's always about the large megacorp.

    If Patent Law and what not actually served to champion the actual talent, a lot of this maximalist rhetoric would seem less absurd.

    The talent are infact just corporate serfs and don't really matter.

     

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  21.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 10:02am

    Re: re: what's owed

    Hmmm ... kind of like how inventors have to file a lawsuit against companies infringing their patents just to get what's owed to them

    Actually, no. Nothing likes that. One involves a signed and agreed upon contract, in which company A promises to pay person B $x for royalties.

    The other involves random company M with a silly patent suing a company who actually innovated, and demanding a cut of something they have no right to and don't deserve.

    See the difference?

     

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  22.  
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    Greg G (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 10:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Hell, if that creepy scientologist from Welcome Back Carter...

    *in Horshack's voice* Wait, Jimmy Carter, or Nell Carter?

     

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  23.  
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    FormerAC (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 10:37am

    Re:

    Of course it's still ludicrous that bit part players in an ancient tv series should think that anything using the name of the show they were once in should entitle them to payments

    What if the slot machine uses their images?
    You are assuming the machine just said "Happy Days." A quick google search (http://tinyurl.com/3r3cm87) brings up a picture of the machines themselves (http://southerngaming.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/pg56_a-copy_compressed.jpg)

    Looks like it is not only using the name Happy Days, but also images of Richie, Ralph, Potsie and the Fonz. Not having played the machine, I can't say what other elements of the show are used during play.

    While I agree that its ridiculous that a show from the 70s is IP that needs to be protected, that isn't the issue here. It is extremely hypocritical of them to not pay the people whose images they are licensing for profit.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 10:41am

    Re: The rules

    My real question is how this sort of accounting doesn't lead to legal hazard under Sarbanes Oxley. If any of the corporate accounting is questionable it all is.

     

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  25.  
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    Dark Helmet (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 10:47am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Look, I'm not answering in character, Greg. I'm already super impressed that at 29 years old I can even MAKE a reference to Welcome Back Carter....

     

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  26.  
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    Frankz (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 10:57am

    it was Welcome Back, Kotter.

     

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  27.  
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    slander (profile), Apr 20th, 2011 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    (cof)Kotter(cof)

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 1:47pm

    Re: Re: Scott Baio

    What? 'Zapped'? What the hell is that?

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    Gotcha, Apr 20th, 2011 @ 7:02pm

    Another embarassing Masnick self-contradiction

    Hmmm ... kind of like how inventors have to file a lawsuit against companies infringing their patents just to get what's owed to them

    Actually, no. Nothing likes that. One involves a signed and agreed upon contract, in which company A promises to pay person B $x for royalties.

    The other involves random company M with a silly patent suing a company who actually innovated, and demanding a cut of something they have no right to and don't deserve.

    See the difference?


    Mike, you don't get it and never will. A patent is the result of a contract - disclosure in return for period of exclusivity - and there is no substantive difference. If you had any substance you would understand, but alas you are too caught up trying to defend you "all patents are bad" nonsense. Here, when a clear analogy hits you in the face, you comment how unfair it is to the artist and yet don't recognize that these two things both come from the same clause of the Constitution. Mike, one thing is clear, you're no Thomas Jefferson. You're just a low life invention thief shill. Interesting you whine about Happy Day's actors getting cheated and then put on your own act about how you think that is unfair and yet continue to think it is okay for an inventor to get similarly cheated.

    Absolutely disgusting dirt. I see the "dirt" in TechDirt must be your filth. More is the pity that you suck your sheepish readership in with your lies.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    Ed C., Apr 20th, 2011 @ 10:32pm

    Re: Another embarassing Masnick self-contradiction

    First, you don't get what distinguishes an innovation from a mere invention. Inventions trivial things that are obvious to those skilled in the art--they're a proverbial dime a dozen. Only true innovations meet the constitutional requirement to "promote the progress of science" that patents are supposed to meet. Granting monopolies to lesser inventions, however, accomplishes the complete opposite by gridlocking markets with lawsuits over trivial things. Do you think that granting monopolies on things that could just as easily be invented by others somehow will "promote the progress of science"?

    As if that isn't bad enough, patents are even granted to mere ideas without any proof whether the concept even works as described. In other words, you can't prove that it works without testing it, but patents don't require that anymore. Then if someone makes an actual working model, possibly without having any prior knowledge of the patent, they can get sued. Do you think that granting monopolies on untested ideas, that might not even work, somehow will "promote the progress of science"?

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    the arcolytes, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 7:32pm

    Re: Scott Baio

    Please do not involve Mr. Baio's good name into this mess.
    He's not included in this court action so far.

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    mordred la fey, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 7:40pm

    Re: Re: Scott Baio

    And Mr. Baio is earning a whole lot of money
    from the dvd sales and residuals of "CHARLES-IN-CHARGE"
    as well as the VH1 reality series "SCOTT BAIO IS 45 AND SINGLE/ 46 AND PREGNANT".
    He may not find it necessary anymore to participate in this current suit
    with his fellow castmates from "Happy Days".

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    the arcolytes, Apr 27th, 2011 @ 7:55pm

    Why is Chachi conspicuously absent in this suit??

    That may be due to the fact that the fifth season of "Happy Days" hasn't been released on DVD yet.
    Chachi Arcola first appears in the three-part "Hollywood" episode of season 5.

    You know who else are conspicuously absent?
    Roger (Ted McGinley), Lori Beth (Lynda Goodfriend), Flip (Billy Warlock), and K.C. (Crystal Bernard)
    And what about the relatives of the late Pat "Arnold" Morita and Al "Big Al" Molinaro??

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 21st, 2011 @ 10:49am

    Re: Scott Baio

    How about Charles in Charge...? His own show...? Hmmm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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