Judge Rules Against Bill Nye in Video Device Definition Dispute

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Streaming and downloading services are video devices contemplated by the parties when Bill Nye signed a 1993 agreement with Walt Disney Co. subsidiary Buena Vista Television to deliver episodes of “Bill Nye the Science Guy,'' a judge ruled.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Cowan found in favor of Buena Vista and against Nye. He heard testimony in a lengthy pretrial hearing in December dealing with the interpretation of the 1993 contract, took the case under submission Jan. 8 and ruled Feb. 2.

The distinction was important because with streaming services determined to be video devices, Nye and other owners of the show are only entitled to 10% of revenues. If the streaming revenues were not found to be video devices, then Buena Vista should be splitting the profits 50-50 with Nye and the other show owners, according to Nye's court papers.

The judge cited several reasons for his conclusion, including that parties “should be entitled to rely on an agreement that is intended to govern a future use even if the future use is not specifically identified.''

The ruling means a jury will not be asked to determine whether streaming and downloading services are video devices, but there will be a separate trial on Nye's accounting claims. A trial-setting conference is scheduled April 12.

Nye, 65, filed the lawsuit in August 2017, maintaining BVT engaged in questionable accounting and cheated him out profits from his show. The television series originally ran from 1992 to 1997 on PBS, and is still streamed on services such as Netflix.

In his written final argument to Cowan, Nye lawyer A. Raymond Hamrick III stated that his client believed at the time that video devices applied only to video cassettes and laser discs -- both of which were manufactured and dissimilar to delivery systems such as Netflix and iTunes.

But defense attorney Lucia E. Coyoca argued in her court papers that a video device is broadly defined to include any device “embodying the series'' that is similar to traditional physical home video. She further maintained the process involved in creating and delivering the digital file in conformance with the technical specifications of each of the platforms that license the series establishes that they are in fact manufactured.

Photo: Getty Images

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