Lead guitarist Gary Rossington,
Ronnie's brother and current lead singer Johnny Van Zant, and
others contend that "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 band's name.
The lawsuit against Pyle and co-defendant Cleopatra Records Inc
was made public on Friday in the U.S. district court in
Manhattan. A trial is scheduled for July 11, court records show.
Pyle could not immediately be reached for comment. It is unclear
whether he has a lawyer.
Brian Perera, Cleopatra's president, said in an interview he
would be willing to settle, but added, "I understood my First
Amendment rights. Filmmakers can make biopics."
Known for such songs as "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Free Bird,"
Lynyrd Skynyrd went on hiatus after its touring plane crashed in
Mississippi on Oct. 20, 1977, killing Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist
Steven Gaines and four others. Twenty people, including Pyle,
In 1987, surviving band members reunited for a "tribute tour,"
prompting litigation that led to the consent order.
The plaintiffs, who include representatives of the estates of
Ronnie Van Zant, Gaines and late guitarist Allen Collins, said
they had issued a cease-and-desist letter last summer to halt
the defendants' plan for a movie titled "Free Bird."
[to top of second column]
They said that while Pyle, who left the band in 1991,
"is free to exploit his own personal life story," the retitled movie
would destroy their right to use the name and history of Lynyrd
Skynyrd, causing "incalculable" loss and irreparable harm.
Such a movie "may contain a potentially inaccurate or skewed
portrayal of Lynyrd Skynyrd's story as filtered solely through the
eyes of Pyle masquerading as the 'True Story' of a defining moment
in the band's history," the plaintiffs said.
"Street Survivors" is now being edited, and could be ready for
theaters in 2018, Perera said.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet, who
oversaw the 1988 consent order.
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 Bernadette
Baum and Steve Orlofsky)
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