This post is part of an occasional series highlighting the type of risks which film and TV producers face and which are supposed to be covered by E&O insurance. The series aims to demonstrate that what might seem to a producer to be unjustified paranoia on the part of their lawyer is, in fact, well-founded paranoia. These posts will point to actual lawsuits which have been filed against film/TV producers for various alleged rights infringements (whether copyright, trade-mark, right of publicity, or otherwise) – and which inform the nit-picking approach taken by producer’s counsel.
This installment draws on recent lawsuits emanating from the type of folks you generally do not want to mess with: biker gangs.
Eriq Gardner at Hollywood, Esq. reported that the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club has sued MTV “for infringing and diluting their skull-with-wings insignia” (Hells Angels Sue MTV for Allegedly Stealing Membership Insignia). The lawsuit was evidently prompted by t-shirts worn by individuals who were filmed and appeared in episodes of the TV series Rob Dyrdek’s Fantasy Factor – the t-shirts bore a design which the Hells Angels evidently feel infringed their registered trade-marks. (If you were wondering, yes, the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation also has registered trade-marks in Canada, one of which can be seen here.)
In a separate lawsuit, reported by Deadline Hollywood, a former gang member sued A&E and the production company for showing his picture during an episode of the series Gangland, allegedly prompting death threats and resultant anguish (Former Gang Member Takes History Channel’s ‘Gangland’ To Court). The use of an unauthorized photo in the episode prompted the suit, which seeks at least $50,000 in damages.