A film created with help from a former Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer violates a "blood oath" surviving band members made not to exploit the band's name and history, a judge concluded as he blocked its distribution, siding with a surviving member of the 1970s pioneering Southern rock group and the widow of its lead singer. The decision by US District Judge Robert Sweet, dated last Wednesday, was unsealed Monday at the request of a lawyer for an LA-based independent record label that planned to distribute the film Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash, the AP reports. Sweet wrote that a ruling against Cleopatra Records and Cleopatra Films would result in no profits from the film, which cost $1.2 million to produce and was finished this spring. Sweet said the film relied, in part, on the memories of Artimus Pyle, who joined as the group's drummer in 1975.
In the '70s, the band rode the popularity of classics like "Sweet Home Alabama" to stardom before lead singer Ronnie Van Zant died in an October 1977 crash in Mississippi. The film centers on Pyle, his relationship with other band members, and events during and after the crash. Pyle survived the crash, as did band member Gary Rossington. Sweet said Rossington, band member Allen Collins (who died in the '90s), and Van Zant's widow entered a "blood oath" post-crash, agreeing no one would ever perform as Lynyrd Skynyrd again; a later agreement defined when the parties could use the band's name, its history, or Van Zant's name and likeness. Pyle signed it, writing "Under Protest" near his signature. In June 2016, he signed a deal with Cleopatra to pay him 5% of the film's profits and give him a co-producer credit, per the court ruling. Cleopatra lawyer Evan Mandel says he'll appeal.