Carol Burnett Sued In Dispute Over Copyright And TV Show Revenue

Bob Banner Associates has filed suit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Carol Burnett and her Whacko Inc. seeking an accounting of revenues from The Carol Burnett Show, spinoff show Mama’s Family (suit refers to it as Mama’s House) and reunion specials. BBA’s suit (Banner himself died in 2011) says the company and Burnett and her Whacko are co-owners of the copyrights to the first five seasons of the show. According to the suit (read it here) Banner and Burnett entered an agreement in 1967 which continued until 1972. During that time, according to BBA, closing credits identified BBA as co-owner of the copyright with Burnett. “Sometime in 1969”, the suit says, Burnett’s company Burngood Inc filed its first copyright registration solely in Burnett’s Burngood company name (later absorbed by Whacko) with no mention of BBA. The series continued until 1979. The series subsequently was edited into half-hour episodes entitled Carol Burnett And Friends. The show and reunion episodes have been distributed in syndication and via home-video licenses to Columbia House, Guthy-Renker and Time Life. The spinoff Mama’s Family also continues in syndication and home video distribution.

BBA says it has received no accounting or compensation for exploitation of the episodes in question. Additionally, according to the suit, Burnett has never clearly repudiated BBA’s co-ownership. BBA charges Burnett/Whacko with breach of fiduciary duty, unfair business practice and seeks a full accounting of revenue and profits plus damages, interest and court costs.

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