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'Dukes of Hazzard' Actor Sues Warner Bros. Over Merchandise Revenue

by Chris Harnick, posted Aug 2nd 2011 6:00PM
James BestJames Best, known to millions as Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane from 'The Dukes of Hazzard,' is suing Warner Bros. Entertainment.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, the actor's suit alleges Warner Bros. owes him royalties agreed upon when he starred in the series. The lawsuit claims Best may be owed more than $25 million.

Best filed his complaint in North Carolina federal court and in it he says he's been fighting to get detailed accounting from Warner Bros. for the last 22 years. In his original contract, Best says Warner Bros. entitled him to 5 percent of merchandising revenue from products that featured his likeness and 2.5 percent of total revenue that features other 'Dukes of Hazzard' cast members. In the suit, Best claims he got word from Warner Bros. that sales of merchandise with his identity netted less than $10 million, something he says conflicts with published reports that "sales of merchandise had soared to 'over $190 million per year' during the first 6 years in which the show aired on CBS."

"Given the accuracy of merchandise sales revenue numbers published, Warner owes James Best not just the relatively small amount paid over the entire 32 year period -- averaging less than $6 thousand per year for the period -- but an amount reasonably believed to be between $5 million and $25 million for the early years alone," Best's complaint says.

'Dukes' ran from 1979-1985 and had a handful of TV specials and a 2005 movie adaptation. The suit filed by Best claims he is entitled to 10 percent of adjusted gross income from spin-offs that used his identity and that the various specials and film did that.

This isn't the first time a classic sitcom star has taken a parent company to court over merchandise.

In April, several 'Happy Days' actors filed suit against CBS over merchandise revenue. Anson Williams, Don Most, Marion Ross, Erin Moran and the estate of the late Tom Bosley sued CBS, claiming the company has cut them out of money they are owed for products such as T-shirts, comic books, dolls and DVDs.

Best detailed his time in Hollywood in the 2009 autobiography 'Best in Hollywood.'

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