US judge blocks new movie about Lynyrd Skynyrd
Surviving members of Lynyrd Skynyrd won a permanent injunction blocking the production and distribution of a movie depicting the 1977 plane crash that killed the rock band’s lead singer, Ronnie Van Zant.
In a decision made public on Monday, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet in Manhattan said “Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash,” based on recollections of former drummer Artimus Pyle, violated a 1988 consent order governing the use of the Lynyrd Skynyrd name.
The lawsuit had been brought against Pyle and co-defendant Cleopatra Records Inc by lead guitarist Gary Rossington, lead singer and Van Zant’s brother, Johnny Van Zant, and heirs of Ronnie Van Zant and the late guitarists Steve Gaines and Allen Collins.
Sweet issued his 64-page decision after a non-jury trial on July 11-12.
Lawyers for Cleopatra and the plaintiffs did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Pyle could not be reached for comment, and, according to court records, did not hire a lawyer.
Lynyrd Skynyrd is known for such songs as “Sweet Home Alabama” and “Free Bird,” which were recorded before its touring plane crashed in Mississippi on Oct. 20, 1977.
The crash killed Ronnie Van Zant, Gaines and four others. Twenty 20 people, including Pyle, survived.
According to the lawsuit, surviving band members agreed that Pyle, who left the band in 1991, could tell his own life story, but that the movie would cause irreparable harm by destroying their right to use the Lynyrd Skynyrd name and history.
Sweet, who oversaw the 1988 consent order, said Pyle and Cleopatra were bound by it, and that there was “no doubt” the proposed movie was about the entire band.
“None of the defendants received the requisite authorization under the terms of the consent order in depiction of (Ronnie) Van Zant or Gaines or in the use of the Lynyrd Skynyrd name, and therefore all have violated the consent order,” the judge wrote.
He also said the plaintiffs showed irreparable harm, and that the consent order reflected “a desire to preserve and protect the memory of deceased husbands and friends.”
The case is Ronnie Van Zant Inc et al v. Pyle et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 17-03360.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)