Copyright Law

LeBron James issues infringement letter to the University of Alabama over web series

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Lebron James

Lebron James. Jamie Lamor Thompson /

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James and his multimedia platform, Uninterrupted, sent a notice of copyright infringement to the University of Alabama earlier this month.

ESPN reported that the letter addressed concerns about the similarities between James’ web video series, The Shop, and the university’s Shop Talk.

Both programs take place in a barbershop and are in an interview format. The Shop features James talking about basketball with NBA stars, and University of Alabama’s Shop Talk—renamed Bama Cuts after the first episode, reported—features the school’s football players talking with their coach, Nick Saban, according to The Recorder.

“Your continued exploitation of Shop Talk infringes ‘Uninterrupted’s’ copyright, trademark rights and other valuable intellectual property rights in The Shop and significantly damages ‘Uninterrupted’s’ commercial prospects for The Shop,” the letter said, according to ESPN. The letter added that both parties should converse before “rushing into legal action.” It was not a cease-and-desist letter, USA Today reported; Law360 and a subsequent lawsuit against James and Uninterrupted referred to it as a cease-and-desist letter.

Thomas Baker, a sports law professor at the University of Georgia wrote at Forbes that James’ series “lacks the distinctiveness needed for copyright protection.” Baker said James would not have a strong case against the University of Alabama if he decides to litigate this dispute, noting that copyright protection does not apply to generic television formats and would likely not apply to web series formats.

“James’ best argument is that the inclusion of a barbershop setting to his web series adds enough creative content to make the format of his series distinctly original and deserving of copyright protection,” Baker said in his article. “The problem with this position is that barbershops are very popular settings for conversations in film and television.”

James’ The Shop:

Alabama’s Shop Talk, renamed Bama Cuts:

Updated April 19 to attribute conflicting descriptions of Lebron James’ letter.

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