Jim Brockmire is a legend in the booth, the old-school sports announcer from days of yore who was fired for his outrage over the radio after finding out his wife had an affair. Brockmire is known in the sports world as the plaid-coat wearing, red-tie rocking, red-rose sporting, bad-mouth talking (of his cheating wife), and movie-referencing play-by-play guy. He is, hands down, one of the best in his game, well, that is if you ask sports broadcasters.
OK, seriously, Brockmire is just a character created by actor-comedian Hank Azaria — recognizably known as the voices of Moe, Apu, and Chief Wiggum on the hit television show The Simpsons. He sued actor Craig Bierko over ownership of the sports announcer voice, which both actors had been doing. And a federal court recently spoke up as to which voice mattered, legally speaking.
Bierko claimed Azaria was using his “Sports Announcer Character” without permission. The two had met at a social gathering where Bierko did the voice for Azaria. There was talk of doing a project together using the voice but plans fell through.
After Azaria started playing Brockmire character publicly, Bierko sent a cease-and-desist letter asserting Azaria was not authorized to use his “Sports Announcer Character.” In deciding Azaria’s suit against Bierko, U.S. District Judge Gary Allen Feess in Los Angeles granted summary judgment, finding that Azaria could copyright the Brockmire character but Bierko’s “Sports Announcer Character” could not be legally protected in similar fashion.
The judge said the Brockmire character, fixed in a video, had distinguished itself from generalized sports announcers (such as with his lucky pen, volatile temper, affinity for cultural trivia, plaid jacket, red tie, lapel rose, and his sign-off to his wife). On the other hand, Bierko’s “Sports Announcer Character” was only generalized (a middle-aged, white, male baseball announcer with a unique American and arguable musical voice) and there was no existing evidence to showing the defendant had fixed his character in a tangible medium.