News 31 Jul. 2017

Billy Two Rivers Sues Van Morrison and Universal Music Group

On Thursday, July 27, Billy Two Rivers filed suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York against Sir George Ivan Morrison (popularly known as Van Morrison), Universal Music Group, Inc., UMG Recordings, Inc., Universal Music Corp., Caroline Records, Ltd., Caroline Music, Inc., and Exile Productions, Ltd.

Mr. Two Rivers, an internationally-known wrestler, film and television actor and First Nations rights activist, discovered to his surprise that the cover of Van Morrison’s upcoming album, "Roll With the Punches," features an iconic black and white photograph of himself in a professional wrestling match, with his signature Mohawk hairstyle, hurling his opponent to the mat.

Mr. Two Rivers is suing for violation of his right of publicity, false endorsement under the Lanham Act, unfair competition under common law, and violation of New York General Business Law Section 349. The photograph of Mr. Two Rivers in a professional wrestling match is being used without Mr. Two Rivers’s awareness or consent by Van Morrison, Universal Music Group and affiliates, to promote, advertise and pre-sell Van Morrison’s forthcoming album entitled "Roll With the Punches." Mr. Two Rivers is seeking injunctive relief, compensatory damages as well as punitive and exemplary damages and legal fees.

"It is an honor to protect the rights of a leader like Billy Two Rivers. He has done so much to advance the rights of First Nations peoples. It is both ironic and regrettable that the defendants elected to ignore Mr. Two Rivers’s rights to control the commercial use of his image," says Curtis partner Michael Graif. "We are confident that the courts will grant the injunctive and other relief that our client is seeking."

Mr. Two Rivers is an internationally-known retired Canadian professional wrestler, and is well known as a professional wrestling icon in popular culture. His wrestling career spanned 24 years, in which he performed in venues around the world. He also starred in numerous films and television programs between 1973 and 2015, After retiring from professional wrestling, Mr. Two Rivers assumed several leadership positions in the governance of the Kahnawake reservation in Canada.

The suit has been reported by numerous publications, including CBC News, I Heart Radio Canada, Huffington Post Canada, the Montreal Gazette, The Toronto Star and Law360. The Curtis team representing Mr. Two Rivers is led by partners Michael Graif and Eliot Lauer in New York, with assistance from associates Nicole Mazanitis and Thi Ho.