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Another Spike makes his point in name challenge

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  1. Prior Restraint
    NMU         NEW YORK    

    NMU         NEW YORK         Prior Restraints    

Another Spike makes his point in name challenge

  • Spike Jones Jr., son of the1940s band leader, calls Spike Lee’s claim to first name “frightening.”

June 25, 2003 — Son of comedic songwriter Spike Jones joined a cable networks’s legal battle with director Spike Lee to call itself “Spike TV” by filing an affidavit Monday claiming the Jones family also owns rights to the name.

Lee has a temporary injunction against media-giant Viacom’s TNN. The injunction stops the network from changing its name to “Spike TV” as part of a bid to attract more male viewers.

Lee was born Shelton Jackson Lee in 1957 — 15 years after band leader Spike Jones had his first top-ten hit with “Der Feuhrer’s Face.” His other hits include “Yes, We Have No Bananas” and “Don’t Hit Your Grandma with a Shovel.”

Spike Jones Jr. is concerned Lee’s case might interfere with efforts to promote and sell his father’s work, he said in the affidavit. The family has sold an option to film and television rights for a biographical movie about Jones with the tentative title of “Spike.”

“I do not believe that Spike Lee ‘owns’ or has any individual right to use of the name ‘Spike’ or as an individual to prevent its use by others any more than I do. If anything, I believe my right would be superior to his,” Jones wrote in the affidavit.”Indeed, I find it frightening that a court would allow Spike Lee to appropriate and acquire an exclusive (and free) ownership interest in the name ‘Spike’ in the television and entertainment field, preventing others with at least a legitimate interest in using the name from doing so.”

Other Spikes are yet to weigh in on the dispute. In show business, the list of other Spikes includes film director Spike Jonze; musicians Spike Hughes, Spike Robinson and Spike Wilner; and British comedian Spike Milligan.

Singer Elvis Costello had an album titled “Spike.” And Spike the cartoon bulldog first appeared in MGM’s “Tom and Jerry” in 1942 when Tom the cat chased Jerry the mouse into a sleeping Spike, who then chased both the cat and the mouse.

Jones said he had no objection to a TV network called “Spike TV” and had never considered any connection between Lee and the network.

A New York state court is set to hear Lee’s case on Aug. 18, in which he claims “Spike TV” is exploiting his public persona. New York law makes it a misdemeanor to use a person’s name for commercial purposes without the person’s written consent. It also creates a civil remedy for the injured person to stop the unwanted use of his name.

Jones affidavit poses the question of why Lee hasn’t sued fellow filmmaker and director Spike Jonze if he is concerned about marketplace confusion.

“I have known Spike Lee as a filmmaker who has pushed the boundaries of filmmaking in the name of artistic expression, and who has championed filmmakers’ freedom of speech,” Jones wrote. “This lawsuit seems to be in violation of that spirit.”

(Spike Lee v. Viacom) KH

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© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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