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Fred Astaire's Widow Loses Court Appeal

October 06, 1998|Associated Press

Fred Astaire's widow lost a U.S. Supreme Court appeal, ending her lawsuit alleging the unauthorized use of her famous husband's image in a dance-instruction videotape. The justices, without comment, left intact a federal appeals court ruling that threw out Robyn Astaire's case against New York-based Best Film & Video Corp. Her appeal argued that the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals should have sent the case, based on an interpretation of California law, to the state's Supreme Court. Robyn Astaire sued Best in 1989, two years after her husband died, over its production and distribution an instruction videotape that included 90 seconds of footage from two of her husband's movies. Best had obtained the legal right to produce five instructional dance videos using the Fred Astaire Dance Studios name and licenses, but the lawsuit focused on the allegedly unauthorized use of the movie excerpts. Although the case was based on state law, the lawsuit was filed in federal court under a "diversity of citizenship" rule. A federal trial judge ruled that the state law protecting a celebrity's right of publicity had been violated, but the Circuit Court reversed that ruling last year.

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