A Legal Minute: Happy Days Are Here Again
Written By: Roberto “R.C.” Rondero de Mosier, Attorney at Law
Something great happened in the Los Angeles Superior Court this Tuesday. Mainstays of the beloved series Happy Days won a chance to continue their case against CBS for unpaid royalties.
So why does this matter? Well, if you are like me and are on the other side of 30, how can you not root for Joani and Chachi? Or at least Joani who is a named plaintiff. And Mr. C? He’s got to get what’s due to him right? I mean, he led the clan.
If you are under 30 years of age then you may not understand the indelible mark Happy Days made on America. I was not even around when the show originally aired, but every day I got back from school in the late 80’s, Happy Days comfortably filed the gap between G.I. Joe and Knight Rider. And if you were lucky enough to follow the show from 1974 to 1984 then you had the chance to see Ron Howard the actor and see “The Fonz,” bring back the greaser glory days of the 50’s and 60’s.
There are a number shows that signed actors to TV deals offering royalties off syndication back up through the early 2000’s. But most of these contracts didn’t contemplate Netflix, DVD sales, iTunes, streaming websites and heck, even using character likenesses in casino games. And even if the contract were broad and promised a percentage of any profits, there are so many streams of income over the year that it is easy to lose track. There are a number actors out these who played beloved characters we grew up with, who are not able to collect money from the use of their image to sell product.
And this is why CBS and Paramount need to be taken to task. CBS and Paramount, the defendants in the lawsuit, claim that the actors suing them, Don Most (Ralph), Anson Williams (Potsie), Marion Ross (Mrs. C) Erin Moran (Joanie) & the widow of Tom Bosley (Mr. C) have received all of the royalties due in the contract. The group claims they should have received 5% of total proceeds, or 2.5% if their images appeared in group shots. This is where the dispute comes from.
It still remains to be seen if the actors can make their case and win. But if you are not aware of the entertainment industry and how it works, Hollywood companies exist whose only job is to calculate royalties due to talent. Unfortunately the studio heads or label executives are not always forthcoming about what is due to the talent. Hopefully this case will work to shed some light on whether these actors are due money. Win or lose, cases like these are important to keep the industry honest. Some (like CBS and Paramount) might say it’s an frivolous unearned money grab. But really if you thought someone owed you some unpaid funds you’d feel you need to make a stand too. Let’s support “Mr. C.” and crew in this one.
Roberto “R.C.” Rondero de Mosier is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, California, New York and Illinois. He is a partner at Gonzalez & Mosier Law PLLC. His practice specializes in Entertainment Law and Intellectual Property rights. In his spare time he enjoys watching television and films, and writing about it. Follow him on Twitter @showbizattorney, or e-mail him at email@example.com
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