In the weeks since we broke the news about lawsuits filed by NBC Universal, Lee Hale and others against Greg Garrison Productions, Guthy-Renker, et al over material from The Dean Martin Show, one of the most intriguing unanswered questions has been whether or not the only major player in this saga that had yet to be heard from —The Dean Martin Family Trust — would enter the fray.
And while there has still been no definitive word from that quarter, we can now report why it may be that the Trust has not become involved in the current dispute — and indeed, might never. We can also confirm that if the Trust WERE to become involved, it would not be the first time that it had faced off against Garrison Productions in a court of law.
Working on leads supplied to us by well-placed sources, The Golddiggers Super Site has learned that the harmony assumed to exist between Greg Garrison and Dean Martin’s heirs had actually been shattered by the dissonant chord of legal action as early as three years ago, while Greg Garrison was still alive.
Upon investigation, we discovered that dating back to 2004 and perhaps even earlier, The Dean Martin Family Trust had sought to obtain 50% of the proceeds from sales of The Best of The Dean Martin Variety Show, the compilation series packaged by Greg Garrison and sold by Guthy-Renker from 2002 until this past August, when the product was withdrawn from the market after NBC U filed suit. All 29 volumes in that collection bore a copyright notice solely in the name of Greg Garrison Productions.
The Trust’s pursuit of a share of profits from sales of those DVDs and tapes is revealed in documents that we’ve obtained from a lawsuit brought on May 26, 2004 in California Superior Court for the County of Los Angeles by Greg Garrison and Greg Garrison Productions against Laura Lizer, trustee of The Dean Martin Family Trust. Garrison initiated the suit in order to seek declaratory relief from the Trust’s ongoing demands for payment.
The Trust, in turn, filed a Cross-Complaint against Garrison and his production company, and a trial date was set for May 17, 2005. But that trial would never be held.
On November 19, 2004, attorneys for both sides filed a Request for Dismissal with Prejudice of the entire action, including the Cross-Complaint. It was then affirmed and finalized by the court on December 1, 2004.
THE PAPER CHASE: (above) The actual first page in the Notice of Dismissal consented to by both Greg Garrison and The Dean Martin Trust in a 2004 suit and counter-suit filed in a California State Court.
What, if any, settlement or arrangement the two sides might have reached out of court — including any possible monetary agreement — we do not know, and may never know. If some type of accord was reached, that might very well explain why the Trust has thus far remained out of the current legal battle, and why it might possibly never join it.
What we do know from the upshot of the 2004 court case is that the Dismissal with Prejudice ensured that both parties were thereafter barred from bringing any further actions against one another on the same claim — at least in that particular court.
But bear in mind that the case delineated above was filed in California Superior Court — a State court — and was a tort pertaining to a monetary dispute.
In contrast, the two cases filed this fall by NBC Universal and Lee Hale, et al have been brought before the U.S. District Court for Los Angeles Country — a Federal court — and filed over the issue of Copyright Infringement. And that’s no accident — the reason that these current cases fall under Federal, rather than State, jurisdiction, is because the issue of Copyright Infringement is a Federal question, pertaining to U.S. Copyright Laws enacted by Congress. (Note: There are also claims under California State law in NBC U’s suit, which attorneys for Garrison Productions are seeking to have thrown out.)
So while we would certainly invite the legal scholars who might be reading this little treatise to weigh in with their thoughts, it seems to us that nothing about the “Dismissed with Prejudice” outcome of the earlier legal skirmish between The Dean Martin Family Trust and Greg Garrison Productions would preclude the Trust from still entering the current and ongoing litigation over Copyright Infringement — unless, of course, the two sides DID sign a truce of sorts back in 2004.
Not that we want to see this fight grow any more complicated or messy than it already is. We just thought that to provide some idea of where this imbroglio might be headed, it was valuable to shed light on one nearby venue where it had already been.
We still hold out the hope that Somewhere There’s A Someone who can put a quick end to all of this…Someone who possesses the desire that Dean had to make everyone happy…Someone who understands that based on the actual history of copyright registration, as we outlined in our earlier piece Whose Show Is It Anyway, no one party has an incontrovertible claim to all of this material, and endeavoring to prove otherwise might very possibly just waste the time, energy and money of the individuals involved, not to mention, further try the patience of an already weary legion of fans.
The Dean Martin Show was unlike any other television series that came before or after it, because its production team and cast were unrivaled, and its host, inimitable. So why not follow that example and make the resolution of the issues at stake in these cases the model for all other rights-embattled TV shows to emulate?
Bring the matter to arbitration. Find an impartial third party or parties who could serve as an honest intermediary(ies). Get together in a circle, hold hands and sing “Kumbaya”.
In short, try ANYTHING that might break this logjam, end the stalemate, and allow us to see these shows again. And who knows — if the material could be marketed again, it might actually make some money for those who have a legitimate claim to it. The only ones benefiting from the current stasis are, of course…you guessed it: The Lawyers! And we all know what one of Shakespeare’s characters in Henry VI advised doing about them.
Instead, we’d prefer to close on a more pacific note, with what Dean himself once said in 1970 at the end of one of those soothing “Welcome To My World” medleys with The Golddiggers — albeit in a different context (the war raging in Vietnam), but in the same spirit:
“Let’s all work for peace…not fight for it.”