If your childhood involved LeVar Burton's ASMR-like voice and Reading Rainbow, know that the host and the show are currently at odds.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Reading Rainbow's current owner, Buffalo's public broadcasting network WNED, is suing Burton for continuing to use the show's catchphrase on his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads.
It all stems from a licensing deal inked in 2011. Court papers reveal that WNED purchased the license for Reading Rainbow's intellectual property, including Burton's tagline, "But you don't have to take my word for it." The deal allowed RRKidz, the show's production agency, to handle digital distribution of the show while WNED focused on actually making new episodes. Burton came in later, with his Kickstarter campaign — and its $6.5 million raised — and hopes to revive the show. According to WNED, that was a breach of contract, since the broadcaster saw the move as an instance of forgoing creative control.
"As evidenced by Mr. Burton’s conduct since he began 'teasing' the public about the return of Reading Rainbow years before his company acquired any rights to do so, Mr. Burton’s goal is to control and reap the benefits of Reading Rainbow's substantial goodwill — goodwill that unquestionably belongs to WNED," the complaint reads. "Now that WNED has called their bluff and is prepared to take the RRKIDZ Action to trial, defendants have resorted to theft and extortion."
WNED is suing both Burton and RRKidz for "copyright infringement, conversion, cybersquatting, violations of the Lanham Act, breach of contract, and interference with customer relations." THR notes that the suit is notable because it involves keeping a celebrity from using a catchphrase associated with him for over two decades.
The network claims that the slogan will always be associated with Reading Rainbow and Burton's continued use of "but you don't have to take my word for it" will confuse and deceive audiences into thinking that they're listening to official Reading Rainbow content. WNED is looking to keep Burton from using the phrase in future episodes of his podcast and for a share of his profits.
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