Massive Dispute Between LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow Owner

This is the second time the show's co-creator has sued Burton
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 8, 2017 6:22 PM CDT
Massive Dispute Between LeVar Burton and Reading Rainbow Owner
LeVar Burton, author, actor and recipient of the 2017 RIF Literacy Champion Award kicks off National Reading Month during a RIF event at Tyler Elementary School on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, in Washington, DC.   (Paul Morigi/AP Images for Reading Is Fundamental)

Those who grew up with Reading Rainbow will likely be dismayed to learn that there's a big fight between the owners of the show and the celebrity with whom it's most closely associated—LeVar Burton. Burton hosted the show on PBS from 1983 to 2006, and starting in 2009, Burton started discussing plans to revive the show in some fashion, the International Business Times reports. In 2011, Burton's company, RRKidz, got a license from New York-based PBS affiliate WNED (which describes itself in its lawsuit as the show's co-creator and exclusive holder of rights to the series' logo and associated intellectual property) to use intellectual property related to the show, but WNED is now suing Burton and RRKidz—for the second time, according to the Hollywood Reporter. WNED says Burton and RRKidz are trying to "control and reap the benefits of Reading Rainbow’s substantial goodwill" without having the right to do so.

In 2014, Burton launched a Kickstarter aimed at reviving Reading Rainbow, which appears to be where the trouble began. WNED says that, under the licensing deal, Burton and RRKidz were supposed to be in charge of digital distribution of a new series while WNED would be in charge of making new episodes. With the Kickstarter campaign, WNED felt it lost control of the revival, and notified RRKidz the licensing agreement was terminated. The company responded by asking a judge to rule that the deal couldn't be terminated. The new lawsuit from WNED is a second one, also against Burton and RRKidz, accusing Burton of using his old Reading Rainbow catchphrase, "But you don't have to take my word for it," in the podcast he launched in June, LeVar Burton Reads. He also refers to the podcast as a sort of "Reading Rainbow for adults," which WNED takes issue with. The suit seeks to stop him from using the catchphrase, but there's a lot more to it than that. See THR for more. (Read more LeVar Burton stories.)

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