A Federal Appeals Court has issued an injunction barring the further sale of "The Definitive Elvis," an unauthorized DVD collection of Elvis Presley material compiled and released by Passport Video, it was announced today by Elvis Presley Enterprises.
The suit against Passport Video and parent company Passport International was jointly filed by EPE, SOFA Entertainment, Leiber & Stoller, the Steve Allen Estate and other rights holders to Presley's work and image.
"It's a very important victory for these rights holders," said entertainment litigation attorney George Hedges, of the Los Angeles-based law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges, LLP. "The defendant maintained that the use of copyrighted materials constituted fair use under the copyright laws. Our position is that their appropriation of the heart of these legendary performances constituted a classic case of copyright infringement."
Hedges, who specializes in entertainment litigation, noted that "this is a very important agenda for the estate. We need to get the word out that we are going to protect our rights and that we are not going to allow Elvis Presley copyrighted properties to be appropriated and used without permission. If this kind of use constitutes fair use, the value that Elvis created in his life's work would be lost."
"The plaintiffs are now proceeding with our case for damages," added Hedges, who recently represented Mel Gibson and Leonard Nimoy in litigation cases involving image likeness and copyright.
"The Definitive Elvis" featured extensive use of unauthorized copyrighted materials of Elvis Presley from television, film, live and recorded performances, as well as still images.
"We're pleased, obviously we feel vindicated," said Gary Hovey, Vice President of Entertainment and Music Publishing for Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc. "Passport had taken the position that they could just take anyone's copyright work and use it without compensating the rights holder, which in our opinion is ridiculous. For someone to just take material is piracy."
Among the unauthorized material used in "The Definitive Elvis" was Presley performances from the Ed Sullivan Show, which are owned by SOFA Entertainment. Said producer Andrew Solt, president of SOFA, "It is unfortunate that we had to go to court to protect our rights, but this week's victory in Federal court against the wholesale theft of material from SOFA Entertainment's `Ed Sullivan Show' archive serves as fair warning to those who might try to appropriate and undermine the valuable copyrights of television libraries like ours. We, with the Estate of Elvis Presley and Leiber & Stoller, have won an important battle against those who believe they can simply hijack our intellectual property while demonstrating total disdain for the law."
"The Definitive Elvis" also included several songs from the legendary songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, including "Jailhouse Rock," "King Creole," "Loving You" and "Girls, Girls, Girls," all used without permission. Presley recorded more than two dozen songs by Leiber & Stoller. The team's prodigious output has also been recorded by the Beatles, the Coasters, the Drifters, the Rolling Stones, and others.
"We are very pleased with Judge Lew's decision. Writing songs is our livelihood," Leiber and Stoller announced jointly in a released statement yesterday. "Those who choose to steal rather than license our works have once again been put on notice that such actions are not only unacceptable - they are unlawful."