Former Wrestler and WWE Spar Over Royalties
Pro wrestler Rene Goguen brought a class action law suit against World Wrestling Entertainment in Connecticut federal court on Wednesday, April 6, 2016. This suit arises just days after WrestleMania, WWE’s biggest event of the year. The complaint alleges that wrestlers should be paid royalties from streaming services, such as the World Wrestling Entertainment Network (WWEN) and Netflix.
WWE’s outside counsel, Jerry McDevitt, is not concerned, stating the complaint lacks merit. According to McDevitt, Goguen and other wrestlers signed contracts which preclude the wrestlers from obtaining royalties off of WWEN and Netflix. Instead, the contract stipulates that wrestlers can acquire royalties from DVD sales, VHS sales, Blu-ray sales, and Pay Per View buys. In pertinent part, the wrestlers’ contracts state:
“[The] wrestler shall not be eligible for any payment or royalties with respect to any other goods, services or otherwise including without limitation to the following: television license fees; television subscription fees; internet subscription fees; subscription video on demand fees; magazine subscription fees and/or advertising; and/or distribution fees of any kind paid to promoter by any entity in connection with the exploitation of the Intellectual Property.”
In his complaint filed yesterday, Goguen argues that his contract permits royalties on “video cassettes, videodiscs, CD ROM, or other technology, including technology not yet created.” While Netflix and WWEN are gradually taking the place of DVDs and Blu-rays, these wrestlers seem out of luck as a result of unforeseen technological changes.