Princess Cruises Faces Lawsuit Over Barry Manilow Concert Broadcasts

The cruiseliner has been accused of copyright infringement, among other complaints.
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Barry Manilow

"Barry Manilow writes the songs that make the whole world sing," states a lawsuit that claims Princess Cruises repeatedly used without permission a film of the entertainer's Vegas show.

The legendary artist is currently on his final concert tour and these unauthorized lido deck rebroadcasts are hurting his ticket sales, according to a federal complaint filed on Thursday in the Central District of California. 

Stiletto Entertainment "exists to manage Barry Manilow's affairs, owns the Manilow trademark and commissioned the copyrighted work Music and Passion Live from Las Vegas," according to the complaint. The company is suing Princess Cruises and Swank Motion Pictures for copyright and trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution and violation of right of publicity. 

Swank, the suit says, marketed and sold to Princess and others "rights" to broadcast Music and Passion Live without authority, permission or consent.

"In 2014, Plaintiff discovered that Princess Cruises was repeatedly broadcasting Music and Passion Live on the lido deck of its ships as a key component of its entertainment of its cruise customers," writes Stiletto's attorney Ryan M. Lapine in the complaint. 

The suit claims both companies not only distributed the show without permission, but they promoted it by using Manilow's name and likeness. It asks the court to order a full and complete accounting from defendants to determine how much money they have made from the alleged violations.

If found liable, the companies could be on the hook for a boatload of damages.

Stiletto is requesting statutory damages of up to $150,000 for each instance of direct and contributory copyright infringement, punitive damages, restitution, attorneys fees and additional damages that have not yet been determined, but would be trebled (tripled) under the Lanham Act.

A Princess Cruises spokesman sent The Hollywood Reporter a statement Tuesday: "Princess Cruises licensed the Barry Manilow concert recording of 'Music and Passion' from OnBoard Movies (a division of Swank Motion Pictures, Inc.) in December 2010. Stiletto Entertainment, the company that had been previously assigned the rights to the content, claims that we did not have the rights to broadcast the Manilow concert onboard our fleet of cruise ships. Any disputes regarding licensing rights and fees are properly between Stiletto Entertainment and OnBoard Movies/Swank Motion Pictures, Inc."    

Swank did not respond to a request for comment.

It's unclear if/how maritime law will come into play in the claims against Princess. 

The New York Times reported in 2006 on a similar suit, brought by the co-creator of Grease against more than a dozen cruise lines. Jim Jacobs sued over unauthorized performances of his play on the high sea. In 2010 the court granted defendants’ motions to dismiss with leave to amend, finding that plaintiffs didn’t adequately prove the infringing performances took place within the jurisdictional waters of the United States, according to court documents, and plaintiffs failed to amend their complaint within the 120-day deadline. 

March 22, 11:54 a.m. Updated with a comment from Princess Cruises.

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