Monday, September 24, 2012
Last week, I taught B. Lewis Productions v. Angelou for the first time. For those unfamiliar with the case, Butch Lewis, a boxing promoter, entered into an agreement to be Maya Angelou's exclusive agent for the purpose of the marketing her writings for greeting cards, calendars and other items on which one could slap a few lines of verse. In 1997, Mr. Lewis negotiated a deal with Hallmark on Ms. Angelou's behalf. According to the case, their deal soured in March 1997 when Ms. Angelou saw Mr. Lewis "punctuate a conversation" with a group of white men in Las Vegas by grabbing his crotch. As the court put it, after witnessing this conduct, Ms. Angelou "burned up his [Mr. Lewis's] ears" and told him that their venture was at an end.
Although Ms. Angelou's literary agent wrote to inform Mr. Lewis that Ms. Angelou was not going to pursue a deal with Hallmark, there was some evidence that the two continued to work towards that goal in 1998. In 1999, Ms. Angelou went ahead with the deal on her own while also notifying Mr. Lewis that their agreement had terminated. In 2000, Ms. Angelou signed a deal with Hallmark that gave her a $1 million advance. After Judge Mukasey of the Southern District of New York denied Ms. Angelou and Hallmark's motion for summary judgment, Ms. Angelou settled with Mr. Lewis for $1 million.
Having been my colleague and BFF for five years but now dead to me, Alan White knows a Limerickworthy case when he sees one. So, a bit belatedly, here it is:
B. Lewis Productions v. Angelou Limerick
"Your actions were lewd and obtrusive,"
Said Maya, in language abusive.
But Butch still can sell
Her poems on "Get Well"
Cards, 'cause their deal said exclusive.