‘Sanders’ in custody battle

Columbia Pictures TV Inc. is seeking a federal court ruling to determine when it has the right to syndicate off-HBO reruns of Brillstein-Grey comedy “The Larry Sanders Show.”

Columbia, in a complaint filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claimed that Brillstein-Grey Entertainment Inc. breached a 1991 agreement that gave the studio exclusive off-cable domestic distribution rights starting four years after the first episode was telecast. The show first aired in August 1992.

The suit claims that Brillstein-Grey in a separate agreement granted HBO exclusive rights to the comedy until 18 months after the show’s final episode first airs, the suit said.

Brillstein-Grey and HBO are now contending that Columbia can’t syndicate the show until sometime in 1999, the suit said. Columbia also claims that HBO has violated Columbia’s rights by airing a rerun in December and planning to show more reruns.

The suit seeks unspecified damages, a declaration that Columbia has exclusive domestic distribution rights as of Aug. 14, 1996, and that HBO has no right to show reruns of the “Sanders” series.

Columbia and Brillstein-Grey had no comment, and HBO could not be reached for comment.

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