NEW YORK — CBS is taking legal action to stop the fledgling Pax Net from going forward with a planned two-hour salute to “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”
After trying for weeks to resolve the issue peacefully, the Eye web late Friday filed suit against Pax Net and parent Paxson Communications Corp., charging the nascent weblet with violating copyright laws, breaking its contract for off-net repeats of “Quinn” and displaying “a conscious, malicious and oppressive disregard of CBS’ rights to its own property.”
At issue is Pax Net’s announcement last month that it was developing a “tribute” to CBS’ now-canceled “Quinn,” featuring behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes and clips from the series, which, in addition to airing on the Eye, was produced by CBS Prods. While Pax Net execs believe the spec — which is being co-produced by “Quinn” star Jane Seymour — is a perfectly legitimate vehicle to promote the netlet’s “Quinn” reruns, CBS’ legal team is certain the program violates the web’s copyright on all things “Quinn” (Daily Variety, 7/24).
The legal action, filed in U.S. District Court in California, seeks both compensatory and punitive damages from Paxson, but doesn’t attach a dollar figure to the claim. It also asks the court to issue a restraining order halting production of the special, as well as any further Pax Net promotions that might infringe on CBS’ copyright.
According to CBS’ suit, Pax Net’s license agreement with 20th Century Fox for off-net segs of “Quinn” “specifically precludes Paxson from broadcasting any promotions or advertisements containing more than two minutes of excerpted footage from the series” and therefore “does not in any way authorize the creation of new television programming utilizing any footage, music, characters, storylines, sets or other content derived from the series.” The Eye filing includes a copy of Pax Net’s syndie contract for “Quinn” to back up the claim.
In addition, CBS alleges that Pax Net’s upcoming “Quinn” spec includes videotapes and other “material related to the series … (which) was unlawfully removed from CBS’ possession and converted by Paxson for its own use and benefit.” The lawsuit doesn’t specify what other material was stolen.
CBS also charges that Paxson’s promotion of the “Quinn” special “has confused and is likely to confuse the public … by conveying the false impression that CBS has created, endorsed, approved or otherwise associated itself” with the special, and that the family-friendly netlet has “committed its acts of unfair competition intentionally and willfully, with a conscious, malicious and oppressive disregard of CBS’ rights with respect to the series, and with a fraudulent and misleading intent and purpose.”
Notably, CBS’ legal filing does not name Seymour, even though she’s producing and appearing in the special. The network has publicly stated its desire to stay in business with Seymour and possibly produce a “Quinn” telepic.
Before going to court, CBS lawyers sent Pax Net reps a letter demanding the special be dropped. But Pax Net officials apparently scoffed at the Eye’s claims, insisting the “Quinn” tribute was legal and above board, insiders say.
Reps for Pax Net did not return calls seeking comment. A CBS spokesman declined comment.