For many of us, LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow are one in the same. The familiar face hosted the PBS staple from 1983 to 2006 and introduced generations of children to stories they’d carry into adulthood. Today, he’s continuing that legacy with a podcast entitled LeVar Burton Reads.
While the effort is definitely commendable, it doesn’t come without its own headaches. The Hollywood Reporter reports that the broadcast network that owns the rights to Reading Rainbow filed a lawsuit against Burton for using intellectual property connected to the series on his podcast.
WNED, a public broadcaster in Buffalo, N.Y., is particularly bothered by members of the public referring to the podcast as “Reading Rainbow for adults” and Burton’s use of the show’s catchphrase, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.”
“People are calling it Reading Rainbow for adults, and I can’t stop them from that,” Burton told WNYC’s Brian Lehrer.
Burton and his company, RRKidz, was actually involved in a lengthy legal battle with WNED that ended in 2011 after both parties came to terms with a licensing agreement. However, WNED was upset by a perceived lack of control after Burton went on to work on building future projects. Now, the broadcaster wants an injunction on the podcast and a portion of its profits.
Burton and RRKidz are being sued for copyright infringement, conversion, cybersquatting, violations of the Lanham Act, breach of contract and interference with customer relations.
“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,” states the company’s legal complaint.
Lord, please give me the confidence of a broadcaster most people don’t know exists who sues someone for using a catchphrase they made famous for more than 20 years.