WWE is currently facing at least two lawsuits (the other I will discuss in another article) that, from the looks of things, are pretty frivolous at best. The first is from former AWA World Tag Team Champion Doug Somers, who is suing the company for basically “trademark violation”, using his name and likeness in several of their DVD sets as well as footage of him wrestling on their “WWE Classics on Demand” channel. Somers is claiming that footage of him wrestling as well as his name are being used illegally, without permission from WWE.
While under other circumstances, Somers might have a case, things are not looking good for him, and it’s likely the case will be thrown out of court. The footage in question is of him performing with tag team partner Buddy Rose in AWA from the 1980s. If Verne Gagne, the former owner of the AWA, was still in charge, the case would likely go in Somers’ favor. However, in case you were unaware, Gagne sold all of the AWA footage to Vince McMahon in 2003, as Vince wanted to add it to his vast library of pro wrestling footage from various promotions. As a result, Vince McMahon became the sole owner of the company, as well as all footage taped during its existence.
Somers is claiming “invasion of privacy” in his lawsuit, as he is being seen by fans on these DVD sets without his permission, and furthermore, he’s not being compensated for it. Here’s the problem: Somers knew at the time that he was being filmed for a wrestling TV show, and was paid for his time as well. It also doesn’t help that Somers describes himself as a “famous professional wrestler” in the lawsuit. As we all know, when you become a celebrity, your right to privacy only goes so far, as you have willingly put yourself out into the media, available for everyone to see.
In addition to WWE owning the AWA, its footage and trademarks, the First Amendment is on their side. All of the footage of Somers that has been used has not been altered in any way, nor has it been used to defame anyone or anything. The little bit of footage used has been used solely to show fans some matches from the past, and nothing else. Yes, they are making a profit from the DVDs sold that contain this footage, but as I’ve said before, they own the footage, and therefore, it is their right to profit from it.
Although the case is still pending, it’s pretty frivolous, and is likely to be thrown out before even going to trial.