Attorneys representing World Wrestling Entertainment (and Vince and Linda personally) have filed separate motions to dismiss the lawsuit brought against them by Martha Hart. The motions were accompanied by over 100 pages of documents. Here is the breakdown of the WWE's dismissal claims.
* Regarding Martha Hart's allegation that WWE doesn't own the right to use any of Owen Hart's matches or footage, WWE pointed out that Martha Hart agreed the company did have those copyrights when she attempted and failed to get an injunction against the release of the "Hart and Soul" DVD documentary in Canada.
WWE's attorneys also pointed out that Owen Hart, contractually, agreed to WWE retaining the rights to his footage in perpetuity, citing, "In clear and unambiguous language consistently ignored, the contract provides at least eight separate times that WWE is the exclusive and perpetual owner of the copyrighted works of WWE s programs on which Owen and other wrestlers performed (including, but not limited to, television footage and photographs), and that WWE s rights survived termination of the contract for any reason."
WWE then cited each and every point in Hart's last signed contract before noting, "This avalanche of contractual rights in favor of WWE, all of which survive termination of the contract, is fatal to all of the Estate s stale claims challenging WWE s rights to produce and sell DVDs which include the name, likeness, and performances of Owen at WWE events."
* In regard to Martha Hart's claim that she alone owns the copyright to tell the life story of Owen Hart, WWE attorneys noted that Hart's case failed to meet the standard under "heightened pleading" commenting that her complain features, "First Amendment problems driven by Mrs. Hart s erroneous view that she alone gets to tell the story of Owen s life and that neither WWE nor members of the Hart Family can speak about Owen without her consent. Insofar as the First Amendment is concerned, it is noteworthy that there is not a single allegation that WWE ever published a single falsity about Owen anywhere in its products or its packaging of products, and First Amendment protections are not lost unless speech involves falsity and reckless disregard for truth. WWE has the same First Amendment right to publish the story about the Hart Family as a program like 60 Minutes and, in telling that story, certainly can use its own copyrighted works to do so."
* Responding to Hart's claim that WWE used Owen's Intellectual Property without Authorization, the company noted again Owen's rights to his WWE material were contracted to the company and that in their 2000 Settlement with Martha Hart, Owen's parents and his children, featured a "broad general release" that "all claims, debts, losses, liabilities, costs, expenses (including attorney's fees), causes of action, lawsuits, and demands of every kind and nature whatsoever, whether known or unknown, from the beginning of time to the date of this Agreement, that the Releasing Parties had or may now have against any of them, as may have arisen or has arisen, in connection with any and all matters arising out of or relating to the death of Owen Hart."
So basically, WWE is claiming that Martha Hart doesn't have the rights to raise these issues in 2010 as she agreed to release them from any and all issues when they settled her original lawsuit in 2000. WWE also noted that if Hart had question over the rights, she could have raised them prior to the original settlement agreement. The motion noted, "Mrs. Hart did not claim then (or at anytime in the past decade), as she does now eleven years later, that Owen s death somehow eviscerated WWE s perpetual rights that expressly survived termination of the contract."
* In regard to Hart's claims that WWE has "impermissibly appropriate[d] Owen James Hart s name [and], likeness and that such unauthorized use of Owen James Hart s name or likeness or other Original Intellectual Property . . . falsely represents that they have been endorsed, sponsored, or approved by the Estate of Owen Hart and the Owen Hart Foundation", WWE noted that at no time has the Owen Hart Foundation been referred to or mentioned in any of their 37 DVDs featuring Owen Hart matches, "let alone in some false or misleading way." So, there could be no false representation on WWE's part. WWE also noted that any reference to Owen Hart on their DVDs would be protected under the First Amendment.
"The DVD and the other videos are clearly expressive works, and no contention is made to the contrary in the First Amended Complaint. Owen s life is discussed in the DVD by others who knew him, including Hart Family members. Unquestionably, there is a connection between his name and the work. Likewise, the Plaintiff makes no allegation of an explicit statement by WWE on or in connection with the other DVDs that the Estate or the Foundation endorses, sponsors or approves those DVDs. Indeed, there is no allegation that either is even mentioned by WWE. Moreover, nothing about the explicit references to Owen in connection to the DVD or other videos is alleged to be false or misleading in any way, shape, fashion or form. To the contrary, Plaintiff does not dispute that all of WWE s packaging accurately describe the contents and that Owen's recorded performances are, in fact, depicted in any DVD on which his name appears on the product packaging. Accordingly, the truthful references to Owen in connection with the artistic works of WWE are absolutely protected under the First Amendment and are not actionable under the Lanham Act."
The Lanham Act prohibits a number of activities, including trademark infringement, trademark dilution, and false advertising. Hart is claiming WWE's usage of Owen Hart has violated the Act in regard to the Owen Hart Foundation.
* In regard to Martha Hart's claims that WWE should not be allowed to use Owen Hart's name on WWE DVD packaging, WWE responded, "Once again, it is significant that no allegation is made in the FAC that Owen s name or likeness was used on product packaging of DVDs in which he did not appear. Instead, Plaintiff now belatedly claims that the WWE cannot use Owen's name or likeness on the packaging on DVDs even to truthfully inform consumers that the DVD contains recorded performances of Owen."
WWE noted that any reference to Owen on packaging was made to accurately advertise the inclusion of his matches on those DVD releases and that those DVDs prominently featured WWE's name and logo, leaving no question as to the source of the material, so there could be no confusion with the Owen Hart Foundation.
WWE also noted that in regard to photographs Martha Hart was calling into question, WWE owns the rights to any photos taken at their events and Hart did not own the rights to any childhood photos of Hart that were used on the DVD and/or its packaging at the time the DVD was produced and released. WWE also noted that Martha filed copyright claims on two Christmas photographs used in the DVD two weeks after the lawsuit was filed. Thus, her claims were without merit.
WWE also noted that under law, no one has the exclusive right to tell another person's life story, which would give them the same rights, as any other media source or broadcast outlet, to tell their version of Owen's life.
* In response to Martha Hart's Right of Publicity Claim and Invasion of Privacy Claim, WWE stated they fail as a "Matter of Law." WWE said that Owen Hart, when he worked for the company, "gave consent" to be publicized as a performer when he signed his WWE contract and those rights continue past the Termination of that contract. "Once Owen consented to having his performances recorded and to WWE s ownership of the copyrighted works, no further consent is required for WWE to exploit its copyrights." WWE noted that Federal Law would support them in this claim and that there were no limits to the consent granted by Owen for future works.
WWE noted, "Accordingly, the publicity and privacy counts fail for the additional reason that the contract grants WWE the unqualified right to use New Intellectual Property in any commercial manner."
WWE also noted that the use of Owen Hart's name and likeness would not be actionable under current Connecticut Law.
* In regard to Hart's claim that WWE needs to provide an accounting of money owed to the Owen Hart Estate, WWE stated that Hart was pointing to a point in Owen's contract that wouldn't be relevant to such a thing and that she "fails to allege any facts that would entitle her to the remedy of an accounting." and that she has not alleged there is a "fiduciary relationship between her and WWE" or any "allegation of fraud."
"Lacking any such grounds, Plaintiff attempts to convert Section 7.12(a) of the [Owen Haer] contract into a legal basis for the count. Plainly, that section sets for a procedure for auditing royalty payments and statements tendered to the WWE performer. The Amended Complaint admits and alleges that no such payments have been made or statements sent to the Estate. On its face, Section 7.12(a) is not applicable to a thirteen-year-old claim where no payments were made or statements rendered."
* Hart's complaint that WWE violated the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act: WWE again pointed out that Martha Hart did not own the exclusive rights to tell Owen Hart's life story. "As a matter of law, therefore, WWE could not have misappropriated rights to Owen s life story since Plaintiff never owned such rights in the first place." For the same reasons, WWE stated it could not have misappropriated Owen Hart's Intellectual Properties.
Hart also claimed that by violating the CUTPA by "breaching a contract." WWE responded, "Here, Plaintiff alleges two contract counts. The first is that WWE lacked contractual authority to use Owen s name and likeness after his death and has been previously addressed. The second count alleges that WWE breached the contract by not paying the Estate royalties when Owen s name and likeness were used. Under Connecticut law, it is well settled that a simple contract breach is not sufficient to establish a violation of CUTPA."
So, basically, WWE is claiming that Hart doesn't have the rights, after a decade and following a Settlement that released them of all issues, to bring these claims to light and that based on the original Settlement, Federal Law and in some instances, Connecticut Law, the suit should be dismissed.
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