Lynyrd Skynyrd members lose the lawsuit against the film depicting their tragic plane crash

music news 11/10/2018

A federal court has finally ruled against the estates of Lynyrd Skynyrd's three deceased members and founding guitarist Gary Rossington in their attempt to prevent their ex-bandmate, drummer Artimus Pyle and Cleopatra Records from distributing a film that depicts the band's tragic plane crash incident in 1977.

According to Rolling Stone, the Second U.S. Court of Appeals in Manhattan, New York, has overturned a lower court's 2017 decision that the film violated a 1988 agreement that prevented individual members from being involved in any projects that aims to exploit the band's plane crash incident. Founding guitarist, Rossington and the children of Van Zant & Steve Gaines have filed a lawsuit against Pyle and Cleopatra Records in June 2017 over the film. 

As part of the 1998 agreement, Pyle was allowed to tell his own life story but was not permitted to use the band name or the rights of those who died in the crash.

However, after the Court of Appeals' unanimous ruling, Cleopatra Records are now able to distribute the film.

Reportedly costing over $1.2 million to make, "Street Survivors: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash" was named after the group's 1977 LP of the same name. Partially based on Pyle's memories, he was one of 20 the survivors of the crash in Mississippi that killed five passengers which includes three of their band members.

Cleopatra Records' lawyer, Evan Mandel tells Washington Post that Lynyrd Skynyrd "failed to appreciate the irony of singing about freedom" (Free Bird) while trying to "prevent other artists from expressing views with which the band disagrees".

The ruling reads, "That crash is part of the history of the band but it is also an experience of Pyle with the band, likely his most important experience. Provisions of a consent decree that both prohibit a movie about such a history and also permit a movie about such an experience are sufficiently inconsistent, or at least insufficiently specific, to support an injunction."

Mandel described the ruling as a "victory for filmmakers, artists, journalists, readers, viewers and the marketplace of ideas."