CBS Settles Royalty Dispute With ‘Happy Days’ Cast

by | July 6, 2012 at 7:05 PM | Celebrities, General

"Happy Days." (CBS)


LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – The CBS television network and several cast members of 1970s hit comedy “Happy Days” reached a settlement in their dispute over royalty payments from sales of merchandise from the show, both parties said on Friday.

The agreement requires CBS Corp, which owns the show, and Paramount Pictures, which produced it, to pay an undisclosed amount to the cast members involved. Financial details were undisclosed.

“We have settled our lawsuit with CBS and Paramount. The terms of the settlement are confidential, but we are satisfied with the outcome,” Jon Pfeiffer, attorney for the actors, told Reuters. “We will continue to receive all of the merchandising royalties promised to us in our contracts.”

Pfeiffer confirmed CBS sent the actors checks for $10,000 each for merchandising payments since the suit was filed.

CBS released a statement saying “all contractual obligations will be honored, as we had promised from the beginning.”

Actors Anson Williams, Marion Ross, Don Most, Erin Moran and the widow of performer Tom Bosley claimed they were owed $10 million in lost royalties from worldwide sales of “Happy Days” merchandise using their images, including comic books, T-shirts, board games, lunch boxes and drinking glasses.

“Happy Days,” which told of a middle-income family in the 1950s, was among the biggest hits on TV during the 1970s. It starred Ron Howard as the teenage son, Richie, and Henry Winkler is motorcycle-riding The Fonz. Howard and Winkler, the show’s two main characters, did not participate in the suit.

Filed in April 2011, the lawsuit was initially challenged by CBS, and in October 2011 California Judge Elizabeth Allen White dismissed broad claims for fraud and punitive damages, reducing the amount sought. But the judge allowed the case to proceed, which ultimately led to Friday’s settlement.

The case was also notable because it could have set a costly precedent for actors’ compensation. The actors already had been paid royalties based on product sales, and they were seeking more money for the use of their images to market the products.

If they had won, other celebrities might also seek two streams of royalty payments – one for merchandise and a second for marketing.