A documentary on the plane crash that killed members of Lynyrd Skynyrd has been blocked by a U.S. District Court judge, not because it was unauthorized but because of the involvement of a former member of the band.
After the crash in 1977, the surviving members of the band vowed to never use the name Lynyrd Skynyrd again but, in 1987, they reunited for a one-time tribute tour. When they decided to continue, the widows of Ronnie Van Zandt and Steve Gaines sued, eventually coming to an agreement that they would receive 30% of band profits and that no Lynyrd Skynyrd project, including a band, could go on without at least three of the pre-crash members involved. One of the people signing the agreement was drummer Artimus Pyle, who left the band in 1991.
When it was announced that a new film, Street Survivor: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash was being made by Cleopatra and that Pyle was assisting, the heirs of Van Zandt and Gaines along with Gary Rossington sued the makers saying that Pyle had violated his agreement with the band.
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Sweet decided in favor of the heir’s and Rossington, saying “Cleopatra is prohibited from making its movie about Lynyrd Skynyrd when its partner substantively contributes to the project in a way that, in the past, he willingly bargained away the very right to do just that; in any other circumstance, Cleopatra would be as ‘free as a bird’ to make and distribute its work.”
He went on to say “Cleopatra is free to make a movie about Lynyrd Skynyrd and/or about the plane crash. What Cleopatra is not free to do, however, is to make such a movie in concert and participation with Pyle in violation of the restrictions imposed on him by the Consent Order.”
“Cleopatra’s consultations with Pyle were important because the Film incorporates, in substantive part, the depictions of Van Zant, Gaines, and the rest of the Lynyrd Skynyrd band, as well as major bits of their history. Cleopatra argues that their Film is Pyle’s story, as no part of the Film depicts the history of Lynyrd Skynyrd without Pyle and which is permitted under the terms of the Consent Order. To an extent, this is true: there is no doubt that Pyle plays a central role in the Film. However, the inverse of Cleopatra’s claim is true too: no part of the Film depicts Pyle outside his time with Lynyrd Skynyrd. As such, there is also no doubt that the Film is a film about the Lynyrd Skynyrd band. As the facts have demonstrated, none of the Defendants received the requisite authorization under the terms of the Consent Order in the depiction of Van Zant or Gaines or in the use of the Lynyrd Skynyrd name, and therefore all have violated the Consent Order.”