Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Mediation in the Entertainment World

Evel Knievel and Kanye West are attempting mediation. This from an Associated Press article found in Comcast's online news (Link to full article here) this week.

Knievel filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against West whose rap video shows West, in full Knievel regalia, riding a motorcycle which was "visually indistinguishable" from Knievel's signature bike on which he performed his famous daredevil stunts back in the day (His son carries on the legacy, but Evel himself is retired with a banged-up body from all the stunt riding).

In the video, West's stunt goes wrong (intentionally) but not in the same way the actual stunt by Knievel went wrong originally in 1974. In defense of the claims against him, West claims the video was a satire and is therefore allowable and not an infringement of the Evel Knievel trademark.

This is a great case for mediation, and apparently the parties and their lawyers think so too. Without being an expert on trademark laws, it's easy to see that both sides have plausible positions and a court decision could easily go one way or the other after both sides have spent considerable time and money.

My instinct tells me that Knievel and West could do themselves a big favor by sitting down together and talking about where they're each coming from and working out a solution between them. They should be able to do this informally - maybe even in a phone call with just the two of them on the line. But because they each have advisors on top of advisors, it's likely that a more structured setting is needed so that the advisors can participate and protect the interests they're paid to protect.

In mediation, everyone will discuss their legal and non-legal positions and productively work towards a solution that solves everyone's problems so everyone walks away happy.

Mediation is not just about compromises nor is it about both sides walking away equally unhappy, although sometimes that's what it takes to get a dispute resolved when there are no other options. Most of the time though, I find if the parties come to the mediation table to work out a deal that fits the situation, a deal that works for everyone will result from the hard work and effort.

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