DALLAS (CN) – Steve Harvey is interfering with the sale of videos of raw and uncensored stand-up comedy from early in his career that embarrass him today, his former videographer claims in court.
Joseph Cooper sued Broderick Steven Harvey in Federal Court on Friday.
Harvey is host of the game show “Family Feud,” his nationally syndicated morning radio show and his eponymous TV talk show distributed by NBCUniversal. He also starred in the hit stand-up comedy film “The Original Kings of Comedy” in 2000.
Cooper claims that he and Harvey entered into a video contract in March 1993 in which his company, Close Up Video Productions, was named exclusive official videographer for the Dallas-based Steve Harvey Comedy Club.
Cooper claims 120 hours of original videotape remain his exclusive property under the agreement.
“Harvey knew that Cooper intended to use his videos of Harvey’s performances to create videos that would be sold at retail,” the 13-page complaint states. “Harvey did not disagree with Cooper’s plans, but requested that Cooper delay in selling videos using Harvey’s performances. Cooper understood that the release of the videos might interfere with Harvey’s plans for his career at that time. Cooper decided to delay his Harvey video project because the videos would become more valuable if Harvey became a bigger celebrity.”
Cooper claims the videos “contain Harvey doing comedy in a manner that contrasts with his present image,” that he was younger then and “not as much a public figure.” He claims he told Harvey in 1998 that he intended to distribute the videos, and that Harvey agreed in October that year to pay $5 million for the videos.
Harvey sued Cooper one month later in Dallas County Court, claiming Harvey had breached the agreement. He claims Harvey later violated an agreed temporary restraining order and a second agreement regarding the videos. His complaint against Harvey was non-suited without prejudice in October 2000, Cooper says in the complaint.
Cooper now claims Harvey has “embarked upon a concerted effort” to stop distribution of the videos under the 1993 agreement.
“Harvey has stated that when (a) when the videos were created, he did a different type of comedy, and the videos embarrassed him, (b) the people told him the lighting is bad, the sound is bad, (c) ‘he was afraid and didn’t want the tapes out there,’ and (d) he was concerned about negative and harmful images,” according to the complaint.
In 2013, Cooper sought to distribute and sell the first volume of a five-volume set of videos called “Steve Harvey Live, Raw & Uncensored.”
Cooper says he negotiated a licensing deal by which he was to receive a 75 percent royalty, but it fell through when Harvey’s attorney told third-party Music Video Distributors that Harvey had not agreed to give Cooper “the rights he claims” and would go after MVD if it distributed the videos.
“The statement is false and is known to be false by Harvey and his attorney,” the complaint states. “Music Video Distributors advised Cooper it could not enter into the agreement in light of the statement made by Harvey’s attorney.”
Cooper says he has tried to market the videos to others, but “decided not to do so without restrictions that that the potential purchasers did not find acceptable.”
Representatives from Harvey’s television talk show did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Cooper seeks declaratory judgment and up to $20 million in damages for breach of contract, copyright infringement and tortious interference.
He is represented by J. Michael Weston with Bennett Weston in Dallas.
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