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LeVar Burton sued in 'Reading Rainbow' copyright infringement lawsuit

The Buffalo, N.Y., broadcaster that owns the show objects to Burton's podcast.

LeVar Burton, former host of “Reading Rainbow.”
LeVar Burton, former host of “Reading Rainbow.”Read moreFacebook

Butterfly in the sky, do you know any good attorneys?

Former Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton, 60, is facing a lawsuit from public broadcaster WNED in Buffalo, N.Y., over his apparent intentions to revive the long-canceled program.

Reading Rainbow initially ran on PBS Kids from 1983 to 2006, encouraging children to read. WNED owns the show.

Filed on Friday, the lawsuit seeks to have Burton stop using his Reading Rainbow catchphrase — "But you don't have to take my word for it" — on his podcast, LeVar Burton Reads, and WNED wants profits from the show.  Burton has referred to his podcast as "Reading Rainbow for adults."

"Burton's use of both the slogan and the tagline from the RR series is an unmistakable — and unauthorized — invocation of Reading Rainbow," the suit says. WNED also asks that Burton and his company, RRKidz, surrender administrative access to a number of social media accounts and websites, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

This is the most recent dust-up between RRKidz and WNED, which have reportedly been in court for about a year over a licensing deal made in 2011. That deal allowed RRKidz to use Reading Rainbow intellectual property for an online revival. Relations later soured, however, with WNED accusing Burton and his company of attempting to produce a Reading Rainbow reboot for Netflix without the station's input, among other allegations. WNED later terminated the agreement.

Burton, the Hollywood Reporter reports, launched a Kickstarter campaign to revive the show in 2014, and pulled in $6.5 million in donations. WNED alleges that Burton and RRKidz secretly met with Netflix to negotiate a series return. RRKidz reportedly has said its talks with Netflix involved a show not affiliated with Reading Rainbow.

"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 company's suit reads. "Now that WNED has called their bluff and is prepared to take RRKidz Action to trial, the defendants have resorted to theft and extortion."

WNED makes a number of allegations against Burton and RRKidz in the suit, including "copyright infringement, conversion, cybersquatting, violations of the Lanham Act, breach of contract, and interference with customer relations," according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Take a look, it's in a book — you can read the Reading Rainbow lawsuit here.