Knutsson was a technology reporter and creator of the “CyberGuy” persona. He worked for TV station KTLA between 1996 and 2011. In 2005, he entered into an agreement with KTLA to be paid an annual salary of $325,000 a year plus annual increases. [Note to self: try to find side gig as a tech television reporter.]
The agreement gave KTLA ownership over Knutsson’s work and gave KTLA the “unlimited right . . . to exploit the programs, recordings or any portions thereof” in any manner and by any method and in all media. The agreement broadly allowed KTLA to use CyberGuy’s content
in all forms of reproduction, transmission, exhibition, display, and presentation, including television, theaters, . . . libraries, devices marketed for the home . . . books, periodicals, wireless, internet uses and all other types of exploitation now existing or hereafter devised.
The agreement allowed KTLA to edit, rearrange, and otherwise modify the work. It also allowed KTLA to license CyberGuy material up- and down-stream to other stations owned by KTLA’s parent entities. A provision in the agreement said the content would be distributed under the “CyberGuy” brand. It allowed Knutsson to distribute the materials in two particular cities with the caveat that, if KTLA’s parent acquired a station in either city, the parent would have the exclusive right to air the material in the particular market.
The agreement contained two restrictions. First, it said that KTLA could not use Knutsson’s name and likeness as an endorsement. Second, it said that nothing in the agreement gave KTLA “ownership in the CyberGuy designation used by [Knutsson].”
KTLA severed its relationship several years into the last renewal and employed a new tech reporter. After the termination, the CyberGuy material continued to be published on the KTLA sites and sites for KTLA’s affiliated entities. Knutsson’s lawyer sent a cease and desist letter, and Tribune undertook steps to remove some (but not all) links to Knutsson’s content. Apparently, the links to content were removed from the main site but not from permalinks. Knutsson filed suit, alleging among other things, violation of his publicity rights. (He also asserted employment claims, but those were not a part of this appeal). The trial court denied defendants’ request to dismiss the publicity rights claims. On a request for a writ of mandate, the appeals court grants relief to the defendants and directs the trial court to dismiss the claims.
Citation: Local TV, LLC v. Superior Court, B271883 (Ca. Ct. App. Sept 2, 2016) [pdf]
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