Who Owns the Rights to 'Hannah Montana'?

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Who Owns the Rights to 'Hannah Montana'?

Tue Oct 07, 2008 @ 08:16PM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Cyrusmiley "Hannah Montana" has troubles beyond star Miley Cyrus' commitment to the Disney Channel smash hit show.

Now producers, including Disney and ABC, are being sued by Michael Poryes, one of the show's creators.

Poryes, who has also executive produced and written some of the series, claims in a California District Court complaint that as the creator, he has the right to make and market Hannah Montana merchandise, films, books, video games, concerts, and the like. He says that he licensed rights to the franchise in exchange for a percentage of earnings. Here's the   complaint. In it Poryes says that the contract has been breached and that the defendants have failed to pay him his proper share of royalties.

But there's more:

The lawsuit contains a copy of the contract between Bigwood Films and Poryes, who has worked on other series including "Who's the Boss," "The Facts of Life," "Cybill, and "That's So Raven." He claims separated rights in "Hannah Montana," some of which were granted to Bigwood and others which were retained. Poryes says that the defendants have breached their duties with respect to these granted and retained rights.

The dispute will likely focus on a parsing of the language in the contract under the subsection titled "Ownership/Work-Made-For-Hire." In that section, it's made clear that Poryes' role "shall be deemed a work-made-for-hire" and it appears that Poryes acknowledges that rights belong to Bigwood Films and that he otherwise assigns or grants them. Poryes also agrees not to challenge the company's exploitation of rights in any way, including in court.

In other words, Poryes may have a bit of an uphill battle in front of him. He's seeking at least $900,000 in declared damages, more after an accounting of proceeds from the franchise, a declaration of his rights, and an injunction.

He's represented by Edward Klein of LA's Liner Yankelevitz Sunshine & Regenstreif.

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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