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An image of Richard Pryor superimposed with the word “swag” has earned a T-shirt designer a lawsuit from the comedian’s widow.
In a concise 6-page complaint, Jennifer Lee Pryor claims that the online-based FretShirt has infringed her rights to the likeness of her late husband, an Emmy and Grammy award winner, a recipient of the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and widely considered one of the greatest stand-up comedians ever.
“Through Pryor’s hard work and use of his talents, he created a general acceptance and good will for his name and likeness among the public, the effect of which was to create an absolute, incorporeal and transferable property right with the substantial commercial value in the eyes of the public, which has been transferred to Plaintiff,” reads the complaint.
She claims the FretShirt Pryor design, which shows his likeness with the word “swag,” violates a California civil code statute that requires consent from the rightsholder of a deceased person’s likeness for the commercial use of the likeness.
She seeks $5 million she claims represent FretShirt’s profits from the shirt in addition to $1 million in compensatory damages, and she wants an injunction against the sale of the shirt. She is represented by McPherson Rane’s Edwin McPherson and Pierre Pine, who filed the complaint in Los Angeles Superior Court on Tuesday.
FretShirt has not responded to The Hollywood Reporter‘s request for comment.
Jennifer Pryor is actively involved in the presentation of her late husband’s image — she executive produced a documentary on his life, Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic, and is executive producing a Weinstein Co. biopic that’s currently in the works, to which Lee Daniels has been attached. Apparently, she doesn’t think “swag” is fitting to his legacy.
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