There have been a number of lawsuits filed recently by former TV show stars claiming that the studios are cheating them out of downstream revenue as promised by their contracts. Perhaps the most high profile one involved members from the cast of Happy Days suing
for not getting a cut of home video and merch sales. In that case, it appears CBS tried to buy off the actors with a few thousand dollars
, rather than the millions they claim they're owed. In another such lawsuit, James Best, the actor behind the famed Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane on The Dukes of Hazzard
, is similarly claiming that Warner Bros. is stiffing him for millions
Best says his original contract with Warners entitled him to 5% of merchandising revenue from products that featured his identity, or 2.5% of total revenue for merchandise when other cast members were incorporated. The agreement purportedly covers not only the initial run on television, but also is said to give him "financial participation in spinoffs."
Best claims he's been asking Warner for an accounting of merch sales for 22 years
, and finally got it in 2009. However, he notes that the numbers provided to him do not match, at all, with the numbers that Warner Bros. has bragged about publicly concerning merch sales. With all of these disputes, it's not entirely clear who's really right, though it does sound like contracts weren't always clearly written and, even worse, the studios have been dreadful at actually properly accounting for things.