Thursday, March 3, 2016
Ninth Circuit Rejects Claim to ‘Evel’ Knievel Rights
By a MetNews Staff Writer
Two Ohio men who claimed to have acquired intellectual property rights in the performances, autobiography, and artwork of motorcycle daredevil Robert “Evel” Knievel didn’t, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled yesterday.
In an unpublished memorandum, the panel affirmed Senior U.S. District Judge Lloyd D. George’s ruling that Robert and Raymond Schreiber did not have an enforceable contract with Knievel.
The litigation outlived both Knievel and Raymond Schreiber.
Knievel, who reportedly suffered more than 400 bone fractures in his lifetime, died in 2007 at the age of 69 of pulmonary disease. His estate was substituted as a defendant in the litigation, which was filed in 2005.
Raymond Schreiber, who claimed to have paid Knievel $1 million for the disputed rights, died in 2011 at 71. A revocable trust was substituted as co-plaintiff with Robert Schreiber.
George, of the District of Nevada, found that there was no “meeting of the minds” with respect to the terms of the three purported contracts, which the Schreiber brothers—Cleveland-area businessmen—claimed were entered into in 1982. Knievel was the only signatory, and Robert Schreiber testified that he never agreed to any of the terms.
“In that light, we hold that the district court did not clearly err in its factual finding that there was no meeting of the minds and that the agreements were therefore unenforceable under Ohio law,” the appellate panel said. The case was decided, without oral argument, by Senior Judge Michael Daly Hawkins, Judge Mary Murguia, and District Judge Stephen Joseph Murphy III, visiting from the Eastern District of Michigan.
More specifically, the court agreed with George that an agreement purporting to give the Schreibers rights to “certain performances” was unenforceable because the performances weren’t otherwise identified.
“Given the uncertainty of terms and the unenforceability of the film rights agreement, the district court also did not err in its determination of ownership of the various film footage and documentary compilations at issue,” the judges said. They added that two copyrights for Knievel footage held exclusively by Raymond Schreiber were invalid under a case holding that the transfer of a copyright requires a clear, written transfer of ownership.
The case is Schreiber v. Knievel, 13-17455.
According to news accounts, Raymond Schreiber filed three other, related lawsuits that were on hold pending the outcome of the action in Nevada.
One suit, filed in state court in Florida, sought damages from Knievel’s widow and his estate for breach of contract.
Two others were filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. One sought damages from Viacom, Inc. and affiliates for copyright infringement based on their use of clips to make the film, “True Grit, Evel Knievel,” the other was against the American Broadcasting Company, ABC Television Network, Inc. and ESPN, Inc. for using Knievel footage in various programs.
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