Former AWA Tag Team champion Doug Somers, aka Douglas Duane Somerson, filed suit against WWE, Vince McMahon and Linda McMahon over the company using AWA footage containing his likeness and matches without his consent. Somers says that he appeared on four DVDs, WWE Classics on Demand, books and other materials but never agreed to do so. WWE owns the AWA library, having purchased it from the Gagnes in 2003 for a seven figure sum.
The matches Somers has appeared in usually involved him teaming with Buddy Rose against Shawn Michaels and Marty Jannetty in the AWA from the 1980s. Somers is suing for “invasion of privacy, unauthorized use of intellectual property, unjust enrichment, and violation of the Georgia Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act.” The suit was originally filed in Georgia state court, but WWE got it moved to federal jurisdiction.
WWE and the McMahons have filed motions to have the case dismissed, arguing that when they acquired the rights to the library, the intellectual property of became theirs as well to use as they wished. They are claiming that Somers knew the footage was being filmed at the time he performed, was paid at the time to perform and is not claiming copyright ownership and that since they now own the AWA copyrights, they have the right to use the footage.
Additionally, WWE argues that any usage of Somers’ name and likeness were related to telling a factual and newsworthy story, thus protecting it under the First Amendment. They claim that Somers’ “right to privacy” claim is invalid, pointing out that Somers himself describes himself in the lawsuit as a “famous professional wrestler.” They’re also pointing to an old lawsuit filed by Ricky Steamboat in regard to alleged royalties for old video footage, a lawsuit that WWE won, as precedent in the case.
Somers says that WWE’s arguments are not supported by “evidence.”