Stoner Comic Says Partners Did Him Wrong

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – “Stoner of the Year” comedian Doug Benson claims his ex-partners handed off the rights to a company behind the marijuana-centric documentary “Super High Me,” jeopardizing his “carefully cultivated career.”
     Doug Benson sued David Paul, Alex Campbell, Wabi Pictures, PBR Streetgang and Vigorish Productions on Aug. 14 in Federal Court.
     Benson says he launched co-plaintiff Four Twenty Partners with Paul, Campbell and nonparty Michael Blieden in 2007, to produce the documentary “Super High Me.”
     The movie “sought to document the effects of cannabis on Benson, by following him through 30 straight days of cannabis-free living, immediately followed by 30 straight days of non-stop use.”
     “Super High Me” was released in 2008. “Several times” in 2014 and this year, Benson says in the lawsuit, Campbell contacted his manager about Campbell and Paul tackling a new project, “Super High Me Redux.”
     “Redux” was to detail the making of the “Super High Me” with unused footage from Campbell’s and Paul’s perspectives, Benson says.
     “Campbell made it clear that he already knew that Benson would not be in favor of ‘Redux,’ but asked Benson’s manager to try to enlist him nonetheless,” the complaint states. “It was repeatedly made clear in these conversations that ‘Redux’ would happen with or without Benson’s cooperation.”
     Benson claims that despite his objections, Paul and Campbell created a trailer for the film.
     “Benson did not want this footage released (in a trailer or otherwise) as he fears it would injure his reputation, alienate and upset his fans, and potentially cause irreparable harm to his carefully cultivated career,” the lawsuit states. “Accordingly, Benson refused to consent to such an expansion of the company’s business. Paul and Campbell paid little heed to Benson’s objections, claiming that the [operating] agreement specifically authorized them (through the entities they controlled, Wabi and PBR) to make the ‘Redux.'” (Parentheses, but not brackets, in complaint.)
     Wabi Pictures and PBR Streetgang are owned by Paul and Campbell, respectively, and were named in an operating agreement as original members of Four Twenty Partners.
     Benson filed a demand for arbitration in May with the American Arbitration Association (AAA) claiming, among other things, that Campbell’s and Paul’s planned actions violated the operating agreement.
     Benson says he also learned that the California Franchise Tax Board suspended PBR and Wabi, in 2008 and 2009.
     Paul and Campbell objected to the AAA’s jurisdiction, the lawsuit states, and claimed that Wabi and PBR had dissolved Four Twenty Partners in 2011, several years after the tax board suspended their companies’ corporate status.
     The actions, Paul and Campbell argued, meant the operating agreement effectively “blinked” out of existence.
     Benson says he “learned for the first time” this month that Paul and Campbell assigned the copyright in all of Four Twenty Partners’ intellectual property to defendant Vigorish Productions.
     The assignment was executed by Paul and Campbell individually as Four Twenty Partners’ managers in mid-June 2014, and purported to retroactively assign the copyright in the documentary effective April 1, 2011 – two days after the company was allegedly dissolved, Benson says. He says Paul and Campbell created and recorded the assignment because they had begun to formulate plans for “Redux.”
     But Benson says California law prevented Wabi and PBR from dissolving Four Twenty Partners until they revived its corporate status.
     Benson says the copyright assignment also was invalid because Paul and Campbell purported to sign the assignment as Four Twenty Partners’ managers.
     “On numerous occasions, Benson made a demand that Paul and Campbell (i.e., the individuals who controlled the now-suspended managers of the company as well as Vigorish) restore all intellectual property of the company to the company, and cease and desist from any further efforts to exploit that intellectual property (including by producing the Redux),” the lawsuit states.
     “To date, Paul, Campbell and Vigorish have failed and refused to comply with Benson’s demands.”
     Benson, who has appeared on “How I Met Your Mother,” “Friends,” and elsewhere, calls himself a “successful stand-up comedian and actor with a loyal legion of passionate fans.”
     Much of his comedy, he says, has focused on his “copious use of cannabis.”
     High Times magazine named Benson its “Stoner of the Year” in 2006.
     “Super High Me” was released five years after filmmaker Morgan Spurlock was followed for 30 days while eating only McDonald’s food for the Academy Award-nominated “Super Size Me.”
     Benson seeks punitive damages for copyright infringement, declaratory relief, breach of fiduciary duty, conversion and fraudulent concealment.
     He is represented by Devin McRae with Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae.
     The parties did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

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