Do you remember PBS’s Reading Rainbow? The show, which ran from 1983 to 2006, inspired children all over the U.S. to read. Well now the host, LeVar Burton, wants to bring the show back.
However, the network that owns the rights to the show, WNED, a public broadcasting station in Buffalo, New York, isn’t about to let Burton do that. They’re suing the actor, claiming he’s trying to “reap the benefits” of the show.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, WNED has been in court with Burton for over a year, but now they’re filing a new lawsuit.
“The broadcaster filed a new lawsuit on Friday that claims it owns the rights to intellectual property associated with Reading Rainbow being used by Burton and his company, RRKidz,” reports People. “The broadcaster also wants to prohibit Burton, 60, from using the show’s catchphrase — ‘But you don’t have to take my word for it’ — on his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads.”
In 2011, the network had agreed to license the intellectual property to Burton for an online revival of Reading Rainbow. In 2015, WNED backed out of the deal, partly because Burton started a Kickstarter to fundraise for the revival without including WNED in the project. He raised $6.5 million on Kickstarter for the project, which he can’t move forward on.
“As evidenced by Mr. Burton’s conduct since he began ‘teasing’ the public about the return of Reading Rainbow years before his company acquired any rights to do so, Mr. Burton’s goal is to control and reap the benefits of Reading Rainbow‘s substantial goodwill — goodwill that unquestionably belongs to WNED,” the complaint reads.
The network says they have called Burton’s “bluff,” and they’re going to take him and his company to trial. They also called Burton’s actions “theft and extortion.”
The network is asking Burton’s company to give it access to all the websites and social media accounts that use Reading Rainbow content. The company also objects to Burton, who is also famous for Roots and Star Trek: The Next Generation, using the tagline “Reading Rainbow for Adults” to describe his podcast, as well as using the slogan, “but you don’t have to take my word for it.”
The lawsuit says, “Burton’s use of both the Slogan and the Tagline from the RR Series is an unmistakable — and unauthorized — invocation of Reading Rainbow.”
WNED is suing Burton and his company, RRKidz, for copyright infringement, conversion, cybersquatting, breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, interference with customer relations, trademark infringement, and declaratory relief.
Do you think the company should let Burton reboot the series if he wants to? It seems to be they are going to burn the goodwill people have for the show—or at least for them—if they push forward with this lawsuit.