Cast members of the television hit “Happy Days” have filed a complaint against the CBS and Paramount Studios in Los Angeles Superior Court, asserting breach of contract. The Santa Monica-based law firm, Pfeiffer Thigpen Fitzgibbon & Ziontz LLP, has claimed on behalf of Anson Williams, Don Most, Marion Ross, Erin Moran and the estate of Tom Bosley that CBS, the successor in interest to Paramount and current owner of the show, has refused to pay merchandising revenues owed under their contracts.
In essence, the Hollywood studio and network have been accused of maintaining an “if you don’t ask [for royalty payments], then we don’t pay” policy, in violation of the actors’ contractual provisions.
Such merchandise, the actors’ complaint asserts, includes slot machines, comic books, T-shirts, greeting cards and DVDs on which their images are used. This litigation was triggered when a cast member was questioned about her proceeds from a Happy Days , slot machine, about which she said she knew nothing.
The actors’ complaint makes some fancy assertions about the import of the TV sitcom, calling it “a staple in American television history and … a household name.” Though the show long since has gone out of production, the suit says it had a “lasting effect on Americans as well as American television and is still an integral part of pop culture even today.”
The suit says CBS unfairly held more than $10 million due to plaintiffs from sales of products featuring their images, the Huffington Post has reported. The actors asserted they were guaranteed this income as a result of contractual stipulations allowing for 5% of all net merchandise proceeds using their name, voice or likeness.
CBS said in a statement “that funds are owed to the actors and [CBS has] been working with them for quite some time to resolve the issue.” CBS has given a document to the plaintiffs asserting it owes them just somewhere between $8,500 and $9,000 each for the last four years. Most of that money is from slot machine revenues, reported CNN Money’s CNN’s Scott Zamost and Poppy Harlow.