CBS Sues FamilyNet for Allegedly Stealing 'Happy Days,' 'Family Ties'

Dallas-based ComStar allegedly claims it acquired rights to exhibit the shows but not the liabilities of having to pay for them.
Courtesy Everett Collection

CBS Television Distribution is suing family-minded ComStar Media for more than $1.5 million in allegedly owed license fees for such old series as Happy Days, Family Ties, My Three Sons and Early Edition. The shows have run on ComStar's FamilyNet Television, but according to a lawsuit filed this week in California federal court, the defendant has asserted the right to air the shows without paying for them.

ComStar Media is a Dallas-based company founded by Chris Wyatt and Christian minister Robert Schuller. Wyatt is reported to have worked at CBS himself before starting, a Christian version of YouTube, and then co-founding ComStar with the aim of distributing "clean" TV programming.

In 2009, ComStar acquired FamilyNet Television, which along with AmericanLife Television Network, allowed it to reach 50 million households. At the time of the acquisition, the company put out a press release that touted the acquisition as enabling it access to a library of sitcoms including CBS-owned Happy Days and My Three Sons.

In 2010, FamilyNet allegedly paid some of its license fees on the show, but ComStar is alleged to have failed to pay any of the remaining installment payments to CBS.

According to the complaint, the defendant has raised this argument for why it doesn't have to pay:

"ComStar and FNM have informed CBS that they have no obligation to make the payments due under the License Agreement because, they claim, when they acquired the assets of Family, they did not acquire the corresponding liabilities."

CBS says the network has shown the series anyway and that CBS never approved the assignment of Family's licensed rights to ComStar, "nor would it, without the complete assumption of all of the obligations to CBS including the payment of all amounts due to CBS under the License Agreement."

Represented by Bruce Isaacs at Wyman & Isaacs, CBS is suing for breach of contract and copyright infringement and demanding $1.6 million in money owed, punitive damages and a permanent injunction.

ComStar didn't respond to a request for comment.


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