Hollywood Docket: 'The Osbournes' Reboot Battle; Gawker Sues FBI Over Sex Tape

A roundup of the week's entertainment law news, including Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" plagiarism dispute.
Ramona Rosales
'The Osbournes'

In early April, Jack Osbourne sued his former producing partners over the reboot of his family's reality series, The Osbournes, in development with VH1. He claimed Rob Worsoff and Brian Wendel, who ran Schweet Entertainment with him, were unjustly asserting a 55 percent interest in new episodes of The Osbournes.

Then, weeks after his lawsuit, VH1 killed the reboot.

In their motion to dismiss filed Wednesday, Worsoff and Wendel claim this invalidates Osbourne's complaint. "There is no evidence that VH1 or any other network is moving forward with the project to produce new episodes and, therefore, this dispute is dependent on future events that may or may not happen," states the motion obtained by The Hollywood Reporter.

Osbourne's attorney Nicholas Rozansky of Ezra Brutzkus Gubner disagrees. 'With regard to whether VH1 or anyone else proceeds with The Osbournes, that is a red herring. The defendants are claiming rights of my clients which Defendants just don’t have," he tells THR.

Wendel and Worsoff's motion presents other arguments regarding the case’s unfitness for court, including arbitration provisions they say their Schweet Entertainment contracts contain and the contention that Osbourne's claim is a contractual dispute (fit for state court) and not an intellectual property one.

But more intriguingly, it tells Wendel and Worsoff's story of their involvement with the forestalled reboot. The defendants credit Worsoff with the idea to launch the Osbournes revival and say he leveraged his contacts to set up pitch meetings with networks including VH1. After the meeting with the MTV sibling network, "VH1 was excited to work on the Osbourne Family Reboot Project with the Schweet Entertainment Defendants," states the motion.

They claim Osbourne and JOKS, the production company he runs with his family, received and then rejected an offer from MTV because it was "supposedly too low."

Then things went bad. The defendants say Osbourne "became increasingly moody and difficult," leading to an incident in which he interrupted a Schweet meeting by throwing his keyboard into a wall and screaming "I f—ing hate you" at Worsoff. "The tantrum seemed staged, almost like a performance to hasten a business break-up," states the complaint.

Following the incident, the defendants allegedly learned Osbourne and JOKS brought VH1 a counteroffer and told the network Schweet Entertainment was no longer involved with the project. They claim his dealings with VH1 violated their contractual attachment, via an explicit or implicit agreement, to the Osbournes reboot.

Rozansky calls their story "inadmissible, and just a transparent attempt by the defendants to smear my client in the media, which was threatened by Worsoff and Wendel all along."

Osbourne's case in federal court is one of six he filed against his former partners and the companies they founded together. In the other five, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, he seeks to dissolve the companies (RJB Post, Schweet Entertainment and Schweet Dogs for film and TV production, Wow Pharmaceuticals and Three Little Birds for music) claiming Wendel and Worsoff paid themselves "exorbitant" salaries and diverted business opportunities from the companies.

Bruce Isaacs of Davis Wright Tremaine represents the defendants.

In other entertainment law news… 

Gawker wants the FBI's help in fighting Hulk Hogan over the wrestler's sex tape, of which Gawker posted a segment back in 2012. In the complaint filed Monday in Florida, Gawker says the FBI concluded a short investigation into the leak of the tape in 2012, and a year later the judge in Hogan's case ruled the records of the investigation would be critical to Gawker's defense. The media outlet claims the FBI nevertheless denied its Freedom of Information Act request on the grounds the investigation is ongoing, and the Executive Office of United States Attorneys allegedly never responded to Gawker's inquiries. On Tuesday, Gawker sued for the documents. The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to the FBI and the Department of Justice for comment.

—Led Zeppelin is "Going to California" to fight for the originality of the group's iconic song "Stairway to Heaven." In a suit first filed in Pennsylvania, the heirs of Randy Craig Wolfe claim Zeppelin singer Robert Plant stole the tune from a song Wolfe wrote for his band Spirit, for whom Zeppelin opened in 1968. Two weeks ago, a Pennsylvania judge moved the case to California federal court. Warner Music and affiliated labels, sued with the band, on Wednesday submitted their defenses, which include laches and statute of limitations ("Stairway to Heaven" was released in 1971), de minimis use (if Zeppelin did borrow from Spirit, they did too minimally for a lawsuit) and innocent infringement.

John Mayer is no longer feuding with celebrity watch broker Robert Maron, whom he sued last year claiming Maron sold him $656,000 in counterfeit Rolexes. "Two years of research restored John Mayer's belief that Bob Maron is an expert on Rolex watches, and confirmed that Bob Maron never sold him a counterfeit watch," reads the parties' joint statement on the suit, which was dismissed May 14 with no monetary settlement. "While I can't talk about the case, I'll gladly tell you Bob is a stand-up guy with sterling integrity," says Maron's attorney, Eric George. Mayer's attorney hasn't responded to request for comment.

—Relativity paid the advertising firm Palisades Media Group $401,000 following a Wednesday lawsuit from the firm claiming the studio owed it for previous work, reports Bloomberg. The studio, which is prepping the Samuel L. Jackson actioner Big Game and CBS's Limitless series, reportedly paid the firm the same day, and the lawsuit was withdrawn. "Relativity has not been served with any lawsuit, and this amount has been paid in full," said a Relativity spokesperson.

—A federal jury reportedly sided with Ed Schultz in the talk show host's fight with a man who claimed he helped develop Schultz's MSNBC program The Ed Show. Michael Queen said in his 2011 lawsuit he was working at NBC in 2008 when he met Schultz, gave him a tour of the studio and worked on a pitch and demo reel for the show. He claimed he was owed 25 percent of Schultz's earnings through a partnership agreement. The case was dismissed in district court and revived in part by an appellate court, but on Monday, a Washington, D.C., jury ruled Queen didn't have sufficient evidence to show his alleged partnership with Schultz.  

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