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Martha Hart lawsuit update: She may not have much of a case left

The newest issue of Dave Meltzer's Wrestling Observer Newsletter has a big update on Martha Hart's lawsuit against WWE.  In addition to the previous change of Hart dropping the idea of preventing WWE from ever using Owen Hart footage again, a lot more has gone down:

  • WWE is claiming that they had no idea that Martha wanted royalties for use of Owen's image based on communication during the wrongful death lawsuit.  WWE's long-time outside counsel Jerry McDevitt explained that after Owen's death, WWE sent what would have been his scheduled paychecks (his contract ended when he died) to Martha.  She deposited a few of them before suddenly stopping, presumably upon advice from her lawyer.  Her lawyers then wrote WWE and requested that they no longer communicate with her or send any checks.  Since the letter was never rescinded by Hart or her counsel, WWE never paid any further royalties.  WWE's taking the stance that they had no way of knowing that she changed her mind so it's ridiculous that she's suing them for honoring her request.  WWE is also arguing that there may be issues with the statute of limitations expiring.
  • Meltzer noted that the royalties generated wouldn't be considerable.  They would be limited to a match here and there on DVDs, footage aired on WWE's video on demand services (one on cable, one online), the Hart & Soul DVD where he was one of the focuses, and possibly unpaid royalties from merchandise sold right before and after his death (mainly video games, toys, and VHS tapes) that hadn't been accounted for yet.  The WWF Attitude video game was released after his death, but he was still featured and there was a tribute screen when the game booted up.  Depending on when Martha requested that WWE stop sending checks, the royalty payments for that game (which could be the biggest portion of the potential royalties being asked for) could be in play. 
  • Besides royalties (which now seems like a much more questionable issue than it did at first), the other main issue at hand is that Martha claims to own the merchandising rights to the name Owen Hart.  Since she's no longer fighting the use of WWE's footage of Owen, she's trying to stop them from using his name in advertising and on packaging.  If she succeeds, then his matches would presumably be handled like Chris Benoit's on "complete/anthology releases" (so far limited to PPV anthology sets and the Elimination Chamber collection): His matches can be used, but his name wouldn't be used in ads or on packaging.  I'm not sure how this would apply to WWE's photos and video footage of Owen in promotional material.  Could they still use photos of him on packaging and video footage in ads?
  • Martha is claiming that WWE used photos on the Hart & Soul DVD that she owns the copyright to, but McDevitt is saying that she purchased the rights after filing the lawsuit, which was after the DVD was released.
  • Martha is dropping the allegation that Vince & Linda McMahon never apologized since she previously stated the opposite under oath during the wrongful death suit and later in her book.
  • She's also dropping the allegation that the McMahons "personally directed" the stunt gone awry that killed Owen.  Linda wasn't involved.  Vince was involved and requested the quick release snap shackle over the standard, much safer method with a locking carabiner, even after the usual riggers refused to do it, but he didn't "personally direct" it.
  • Also dropped is the claim that WWE violated her copyright on the life story of Owen Hart since you can't just copyright someone's life story.

Arguments will be heard in a few weeks as WWE will attempt to get the case dismissed.

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