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Filmmakers defiant over Lynyrd Skynyrd film rights

September 05, 2017 - 7:37 PM

NEW YORK - A judge's finding that a new Lynyrd Skynyrd film violates a "blood oath" made by the band to not exploit the group's name following a fatal plane crash hasn't stopped the film's creators from threatening to distribute the film.

Lawyers for the filmmakers say in court papers that they can distribute "Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash" to "anyone and everyone in the world" until the judge formally says otherwise. The film was made with input from a former drummer with the pioneering 1970s southern rock band whose hits included "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird."

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Sweet in Manhattan recently ruled that the widow of lead singer and songwriter Ronnie Van Zant and others, including founding band member Allen Collins, had shown that the film violates a nearly three-decade-old court-approved agreement aimed at preventing exploitation of the band's name and history. Van Zant died in an October 1977 plane crash in Mississippi.

After the ruling, attorney Evan Mandel, representing Los Angeles-based Cleopatra Records Inc. and Cleopatra Films, said Sweet's ruling did not specify what Cleopatra is prohibited from doing with the film, meaning Cleopatra is "under no obligation to refrain from distributing the film to anyone and everyone in the world." Mandel has said he will seek "immediate relief" from an appeals court.

In papers filed Monday, lawyers for Van Zant's widow and other plaintiffs asked the judge to ban Cleopatra from distributing the motion picture or anything related to it and to order that the film be destroyed within weeks of a final judgment. They also asked that the judge require the defendants to pay at least $634,000 in attorney fees.

Last week, the lawyers responded to Mandel's claim that the film could be distributed to anyone, saying doing so would be in contempt of court.

"We disagree with the assertions made in the — to put it mildly — brazen letter of Mr. Mandel," attorney Richard G. Haddad wrote.

The judge has given the lawyers for the filmmakers until Friday to say what they think a judgment from the court should say.

News from © The Associated Press, 2017
The Associated Press

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