Say it aint so! We all have fond memories as children of LeVar Burton as the host of Reading Rainbow, programming for children promoting reading and literacy. The famous (and catchy) song is seared in many of our brains.
Well, another well know line from the show was when LeVar said “But, you don’t have to take MY word for it” and then the show would feature several children talking about their favorite books.
It’s the “don’t take my word for it” line that is now the subject of a new legal battle according to The Hollywood Reporter.
LeVar currently hosts his own podcast aimed at adults called LeVar Burton Reads. Burton had announced 8 years ago his intention to revive Reading Rainbow and created a company called RRkidz.
According The Hollywood Reporter, RRKidz obtained a license from WNED to use intellectual property related to Reading Rainbow, which ran on PBS between 1983 and 2006.
To save you all from the legal mumbo jumbo, essentially Burton got legal permission to bring Reading Rainbow on the internet, while WNED retained the rights to television and further episodes. When WNED saw that Burton was having success, and possible a Reading Rainbow spinoff on Netflix, WNED didnt like it and began a lawsuit back in 2011 attempting to terminate their agreement. Burton and his company RRkidz have challenged saying that they have adhered to all of the rules of the agreement and should therefore be able to continue.
WNED has come on even stronger since Burton released his podcast in June of 2017 narrating short stories aimed at adults. Burton acknowledges that fans of the show do call it the “Reading Rainbow for Adults” but that there is nothing that he can do to stop them from doing that. Burton also uses the tagline “But you don’t have to take MY word for it” frequently on his podcast.
WNED claims that the use of this phrase is “immutably associated with Reading Rainbow” and that Burton’s use in a manner not authorized by WNED causes confusion, mistake or deception as to the origins. WNED not only wants an injunction, but also profits from Burton’s podcast.
Burton and RRKidz are now being sued for copyright infringement, conversion, cybersquatting, violations of the Lanham Act, breach of contract and interference with customer relations.
Its all very sad considering the public has shown that they would love for Burton to continue with the Reading Rainbow brand, which they made clear when Burton raised $6.5 million on Kickstarter to bring back the series.
Here’s a guy has brought literacy and joy to millions, attempted to legally gain the rights to use the Reading Rainbow name, and the owners don’t want to play ball. In the end we all suffer.