updated 09:25 pm EST, Thu December 13, 2007
Apple, Viacom, BET charged
Apple, Viacom and its Black Entertainment Television subsidiary network on Wednesday were named as defendants in a civil lawsuit over defamatory statements made during the promotion and sale of American Gangster, a BET television series currently available for sale via iTunes. The 13-page lawsuit, originally filed on October 10th in Texas, claims that the advertising and promotion of the show incorrectly labeled the plaintiffs James Prince and Thomas Randle as killers, harming both their reputations and their businesses. Prince and Randle seek both preliminary and permanent injunctions to prevent the defendants from publishing, broadcasting or selling the offending American Gangster episode as well as punitive damages for airing the program.
The BET show, which reaches 1.3 million households and has about 1.7 million total viewers, chronicles the rise and fall of the country's most notorious African-American criminals -- which implies that both Prince and Randle were part of that group, the lawsuit says. Though they a not mentioned by name, their photos are shown in the video alongside that of Larry Hoover, a known Chicago gang leader. The greatest offense committed by either of the plaintiffs was by Prince, who was issued a restraining order by a Houston Court after it was claimed that he had arranged the beating of label executive Ronnie Bookman following a dispute.
"During the advertisement program, a photograph of Mr. Prince and Mr. Randle is shown with Mr. Larry Hoover, without their permission, with the narrator stating that they were 'MURDERERS,'" the suit alleges. "Neither Mr. Prince nor Mr. Randle has ever been convicted of felony offenses, let alone murder. Such patently false, inflammatory and defamatory publications have maternally [sic] and substantially harmed the reputation of my clients."
In addition to using the plaintiffs' images without permission, Apple, Viacom, and BET have also allegedly refused to pull the episode or modify the content to protect the identities of the plaintiffs, the lawsuit claims. Furthermore, Apple and the other defendants have purportedly acted with reckless disregard by continuing to air the episode on BET and sell its digital version via iTunes.
None of the companies named in the suit have offered comment on the matter.