WNED Sued LeVar Burton Over his LeVar Burton Reads Podcast

LeVar Burton Reads debuted in June of 2017. In each episode, LeVar Burton (whom you may recognize from “Reading Rainbow”) reads a hand-picked piece of short fiction to you. WNED has sued LeVar Burton for copyright infringement.

WNED-TV is the PBS affiliate in Buffalo, New York. This is not the first lawsuit between WNED-TV and LeVar Burton. Hollywood Reporter explains:

Although this is a new lawsuit, WNED and Burton’s RRKidz have been in court with each other for more than a year over a 2011 licensing deal.

According to court papers, RRKidz obtained a license from WNED to use intellectual property related to Reading Rainbow, which ran on PBS between 1983 and 2006 and was hosted by Burton…

…WNED’s interpretation of the agreement is that the 2011 deal represented a “divide and conquer” approach to the renaissance of Reading Rainbow, whereby RRKidz would be allowed to take over digital distribution of the series while the broadcaster would focus on making new episodes. Profits were to be split.

Hollywood Reporter points out that Burton launched a Kickstarter in 2014 to raise money for “Reading Rainbow’s” revival, and WNED was upset with the lost of control. It appears that WNED alleges that Burton (along with The Jim Henson Co.) was making efforts to negotiate with Netflix for a “Reading Rainbow”.

In the new lawsuit, which WNED filed in the United States District Court Southern District of New York, WNED is asking the court for several things. The most relevant one is: “enjoining and restraining LeVar Burton from using the phrases “Reading Rainbow for adults” and “…but you don’t have to take my word for it” in connection with the LeVar Burton Reads podcast.”

LeVar Burton Reads Short Fiction to You

LeVar Burton Reads debuted on June 12, 2017. Listeners can sit back and enjoy as LeVar Burton reads a hand-picked piece of short fiction to you every episode.

You might recognize LeVar Burton from “Roots” (where he played Kunta Kinte). Or, you might know him from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (where he played Lt. Commander Geordi La Forge). Fans of “Reading Rainbow”, where LeVar Burton talked about children’s books, will enjoy LeVar Burton Reads.

LeVar Burton is the honored recipient of 12 Emmy Awards, a Grammy, and five NAACP awards.  LeVar Burton Reads is on Stitcher (Midroll Media). The podcast’s website is at ART19. Audible is a sponsor of the podcast – which truly seems like a natural fit.

A short “sneak peek” episode was released on June 2, 2017. In episode 1, LeVar Burton reads “Kin” by Bruce McAllister. It is part of his collection titled THE GIRL WHO LOVED ANIMALS. In episode 2, LeVar Burton reads “The Lighthouse Keeper”, which is part of FEN: STORIES from Graywolf Press.

I have subscribed to this podcast (via iTunes) and am looking forward to listening to what I think will feel like “Reading Rainbow” for grown ups. Short stories, either in collections or on their own somewhere on the internet, tend to be hard to find. It is wonderful that LeVar Burton will be featuring a short story on each and every episode.