LeVar Burton is being slapped with a lawsuit by a public broadcaster in Buffalo for essentially hijacking the long-running PBS show, Reading Rainbow.
In the wide-spanning suit, the broadcaster, WNED, requested that Burton's company hand over "administrative access to various websites and social media accounts," according to THR.
One major point of the lawsuit is to urge the Star Trek: The Next Generation alum to stop using the Reading Rainbow catchphrase, "...but you don't have to take my word for it" on his podcast called LeVar Burton Reads.
In 2014, Burton attempted to revive Reading Rainbow by starting a Kickster campaign to raise funds. WNED says that Burton's efforts, combined with secret negotiations with The Jim Henson Company to develop a Reading Rainbow series for Netflix, undermined its own efforts to reboot the show.
Earlier this year in June, Burton launched his podcast in which he narrates short stories. The lawsuit points to a specific conversation that comes 48 seconds into the first episode.
Female Voice: Let's talk about...
Burton: Why I want to do a podcast?
Female Voice: Yeah, let's talk about that.
Burton: Yeah, yeah. Well here's the thing: people have asked me, um, for years and years and years, when are you going to do a Reading Rainbow for adults? And it's always been something that's on my mind so I wanted to address that, I wanted to address a Reading Rainbow for adults.
WNED felt that Burton was violating the licensing agreement by openly explaining that he was doing a "Reading Rainbow for adults."
On August 1, the Reading Rainbow website posted a new notice that read: "As of August 1st, 2017 RRKidz will no longer license the Reading Rainbow brand. ReadingRainbow.com is owned and operated by WNED-Buffalo."
Read an excerpt from the lawsuit against LeVar Burton below:
"As evidenced by Mr. Burton's conduct since he began 'teasing' the public about the return of Reading Rainbow years before his company acquired any rights to do so, Mr. Burton's goal is to control and reap the benefits of Reading Rainbow's substantial goodwill— goodwill that unquestionably belongs to WNED," the complaint reads.
"First, defendants tried to assert control over the brand through deception: secret negotiations with Netflix, false assertions of ownership of the RR Intellectual Property, and misleading efforts to persuade WNED's business associates to make Mr. Burton the host of any new series. Then, defendants tried brute force: the RRKIDZ Action, through which they tied up the RR Intellectual Property while waging a war of attrition intended to extract a settlement that would loosen restrictions of their ability to exploit the RR Intellectual Property.0comments
"Now that WNED has called their bluff and is prepared to take the RRKIDZ Action to trial, defendants have resorted to theft and extortion. As the RRKIDZ Action moved closer to trial, RRKidz began working with Mr. Burton's longtime friend, John Raymonds, to secretly encumber the RR Intellectual Property as collateral for $2.5 million in loans from Raymonds Capital."
WNED is seeking both an injunction and profits from his Burton and his company.