LOS ANGELES (CN) – Comedian Carol Burnett continues to reap profits from her eponymous sketch show without sharing with the show’s co-owner, a Hollywood production company claims in court.
Bob Banner Associates, the company of the late producer Bob Banner, sued Whacko Inc. and Burnett, 79, in Superior Court. Banner seeks an accounting and damages for breach of fiduciary duty, conversion and unfair business practices.
Banner wants an accounting of profits Burnett earned when she sold home video distribution rights for “The Carol Burnett Show” to Time Life and other companies, and accounting for revenue from other media.
The late Bob Banner and Burnett partnered in the late 1960s to create “The Carol Burnett Show,” according to the 11-page lawsuit.
Burnett’s (nonparty) company, Burngood, then secretly registered copyrights for the show as a sole owner, though Burnett “never clearly and expressly repudiated” Banner’s rights, according to the complaint.
CBS broadcast 278 episodes of “The Carol Burnett Show,” which ran for 11 seasons, from 1967 until 1979, according to the complaint.
Banner stopped working on the show after season five.
According to the complaint, Whacko edited several shows into half-hour versions which aired as “Carol Burnett and Friends.”
Burnett also starred in reunion shows, and a 1980s sitcom spinoff, “Mama’s Family,” cited in the complaint as “Mama’s House”.
“Notwithstanding Whacko’s continued exploitation and profit from the use of the show, and of the edited versions, the reunion shows, the spin-off and any other derivative works based on the foregoing (collectively the ‘derivative works’), Whacko failed to provide BBA an accounting of the profits earned, and BBA has received no share of the profits earned,” according to the complaint.
Because Whacko holds master copies of the first five seasons of the show, Banner says, a home video deal it was negotiating with Time Life fell through, leaving Burnett free to negotiate a deal for her own company.
“BBA did not receive any compensation from Time Life for the home video distribution of the show. Indeed, BBA has not received an accounting from Burnett or Whacko for the profits earned from granting Time Life distribution rights to the show,” the complaint states.
Banner says Burnett is using Whacko as her alter ego, and calls the company a “sham and fiction,” by which “the monies of Burnett and Whacko have been commingled and intermingled.”
“Burnett has controlled and used Whacko as well as other entities affiliated with and controlled by Burnett to divert revenues received from the use and exploitation of the show and the derivative works in order to avoid paying the debts and obligations owed to Burnett’s and Whacko’s creditors, including those owed to plaintiff as co-owner of copyrights to the show,” the complaint states.
Banner seeks disgorgement and restitution, with interest, and damages for the four causes of action.
It is represented by David Schwarcz, with Schwarcz, Rimberg, Boyd, & Rader.
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