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Court spikes appeal of "Spike TV" injunction

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Court spikes appeal of “Spike TV” injunction

  • Two courts have sided with Spike Lee to keep Viacom’s TNN from changing its name to “Spike TV” for now.

June 23, 2003 — Viacom’s made over channel for men is still without a manly moniker after a New York appellate court on Thursday upheld an injunction barring The National Network from using the name “Spike TV.”

Film director Spike Lee, whose real name is Shelton Jackson Lee, sought the injunction in a state court to halt TNN’s plans to rename the network as part of a bid to reposition the channel as the preeminent male-oriented network.

“What appears, at first blush, to be an exercise in egocentricity, becomes on closer review an earnest attempt by a prominent personality to limit what he regards as the commercial exploitation of his public persona,” Supreme Court Justice Walter Tolub wrote in a memo accompanying the order to grant a preliminary injunction.

The network had planned to change names on June 16. The channel is currently using the name “The New TNN.” A full appellate bench is scheduled to hear Viacom’s appeal of the injunction in September.

In addition to showing reruns of the “A Team,” “Baywatch” and “Star Trek,” The New TNN plans an animated series called “Stripperella” featuring Pamela Anderson as the voice of a cartoon stripper and a special on the 100 most irresistible women.

The ruling to uphold the injunction has “far reaching First Amendment implications,” a Viacom spokesman said in a prepared statement.

“We firmly believe we have an absolute right to use the common word ‘spike’ as the name of our network,” the spokesman said.

Even the lower court acknowledged that Spike is common.

“The list of famous ‘Spikes’ in sports and the arts is far too exhaustive to set forth here,” Tolub wrote. “As for multiple meanings, Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary lists at least eight definitions of the word ‘spike.'”

But the Tolub pointed to Cher, Madonna, Sting and Liza to support his belief that “a celebrity can in fact establish a vested right in the use of only their first name or surname.”

Meanwhile, The New TNN’s Web site posted this message: “We are the first network for men. Due to a New York State Court ruling we cannot announce our name at this time. Stay tuned . . . ”

(Spike Lee v. Viacom Inc.) KH

© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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