Harlan Ellison has sued CBS Paramount over its alleged failure to pay him for the merchandising, publishing and other exploitations of “City on the Edge of Forever,” an early “Star Trek” episode that he wrote.
Ellison, in an action filed Friday in federal court in Los Angeles, also sued the Writers Guild of America for its alleged failure to act on his behalf but is seeking only $1 in damages plus attorneys fees and court costs from the guild.
The suit accuses CBS Paramount and WGA of breaching the collective bargaining agreement and also accuses the guild of breaching its duty of fair representation.
“Paramount has earned millions exploiting the ‘City’ teleplay since it was aired in 1967,” the suit said. “Yet Paramount has not accounted to Ellison or paid him for such exploitations as it is required to do under the 1960 MBA (minimum basic agreement) and 1966 Amendment.”
CBS Paramount was not immediately available for comment and a spokesman for the WGA declined to comment.
“It ain’t about the ‘principle,’ friend, it’s about the money! Pay me!” Ellison said in a statement. “I’m doing it for the 35-year-long disrespect and the money!”
The episode, which centered on time travel and starred Joan Collins, first aired in April 1967. It won the WGA teleplay award and a Hugo award.
Ellison’s suit accuses Paramount of failing to notify him about the “Crucible” trilogy of books based on the teleplay and merchandising including a “talking” Christmas ornament. It also asserts that, under the WGA’s master contract, Ellison’s entitled to 25% of revenues from licensing of publication rights.
The action accused the WGA of using a narrow interpretation of publication rights in the master contract as only applying to circumstances in which producers make a “virtual word-for-word replication of the teleplay.”
It also alleges that Ellison attempted to obtain the WGA’s assistance over the past year and received initial promises that it would do so but later falsely suggested that Ellison had verbally withdrawn his claim.
“To some extent, this case is about the degree to which the producers have co-opted the WGA and how the WGA in various ways improperly screens out contractually legitimate claims by its individual members to avoid rocking the boat,” the suit said.Ellison is seeking performance, compensatory, consequential and punitive damages from CBS Paramount but did not specify a dollar figure.