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Jury may hear suit over use of Facenda's voice

The son of John Facenda appears headed to trial in his lawsuit over NFL Films' use of his father's legendary voice in a program about a John Madden video game.

A federal appeals court in Philadelphia heard arguments yesterday and strongly hinted that a jury should decide whether the 22-minute film was a commercial or a documentary - or perhaps, as one judge suggested, "a documercial."

John "Jack" Facenda Jr. is challenging the use of 13 seconds of his father's voice on an NFL Network program about the making of the 2006 Madden NFL game. NFL Films holds the copyright to the clip, but the senior Facenda, a longtime Philadelphia news anchor and for years the narrator of football highlight films, signed a contract shortly before he died in 1984 that banned the use of his thundering baritone for product endorsements.

The NFL is appealing a lower-court ruling that allowed the suit to go forward. The judges did not indicate when they would rule. John Facenda Jr., 69, previously settled a lawsuit against Campbell Soup Co. for using a Facenda soundalike in radio and television ads.

- AP