Lynyrd Skynyrd Members Lose ‘Street Survivors’ Film Lawsuit
A federal court has ruled against the estates of three deceased members of Lynyrd Skynyrd and founding guitarist Gary Rossington in their attempt to prevent former drummer Artimus Pyle and Cleopatra Records from distributing a movie about the 1977 plane crash that killed three members of the band.
Rolling Stone reports that the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York has unanimously overturned a lower court's decision from last year which said Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash violated a 1988 agreement that prevented individual members from taking part in any project aimed at exploiting the group's tragic history. They are allowed, however, to tell their own life stories.
The suit was filed in June 2017 by Rossington, the only original member still in the band, and the estates of Ronnie Van Zant and Steve and Cassie Gaines – the three musicians killed in the crash. An injunction was granted two months later but the appellate court has now ruled that, based on the wording of the pact, Pyle couldn't be prevented from retelling the crash from his own perspective.
“That crash is part of the 'history' of the band, but it is also an ‘experience’ of Pyle with the band, likely his most important experience,” the ruling noted. “Provisions of a consent decree that both prohibit a movie about such a history and also permit a movie about such an experience are sufficiently inconsistent, or at least insufficiently specific, to support an injunction.”
Evan Mandel, who represented Cleopatra, told the Washington Post that “the band fails to appreciate the irony of singing about freedom while attempting to use a secret gag order to prevent other artists from expressing views with which the band disagrees. The court’s decision is a victory for filmmakers, artists, journalists, readers, viewers, and the marketplace of ideas.”
With the ruling, Cleopatra can now release the movie, which has a reported budget of $1.2 million.