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Appeals Court Lifts Injunction on Lynyrd Skynyrd Movie

By Lisa M. Schaffer, Esq. on October 12, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Street Survivor: The True Story of the Lynyrd Skynyrd Plane Crash, the movie about the fateful Lynyrd Skynyrd accident that killed three of the band's members, appears headed to a theater near you. Though the lower court initially blocked the film and music company, Cleopatra, from distributing the movie based on a consent decree between members of the band, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the consent decree was "sufficiently inconsistent," and is letting the film progress to release.

You Got That Right, a Blood Oath

Lynyrd Skynyrd, the preeminent Southern Rock Band. formed in the 1960's. They were at the height of their career in 1977, when their tour plane crashed in Mississippi. Twenty people survived the crash, but three band members died: lead vocalist and founding member, Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist and vocalist Steve Gaines, and backup singer Cassie Gaines, who was also Steve's older sister.

The surviving members of the band, and the dead members' families, took a blood oath that "the name Lynyrd Skynyrd was never to be used again." Ten years later, in 1987, surviving members of the group wanted to do a reunion tour, including Artimus Pyle, the band's drummer. Ah ... it's always the drummer that goes rogue. This lead to a legal battle which resulted in a consent decree, based on the blood oath, that restricted how the band's name and biography could be used.

Decree Is Gone With the Wind

Flash forward about 30 more years later, and Pyle decides to make a movie about the crash. Well aware of the consent decree and the blood oath, he felt that the crash was his experience, and no consent decree could bar him from speaking about his experiences.

The lower court disagreed with him, but this week, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-to-0 that the wording of the decree was problematic because although it prevented Pyle from making a movie about Lynyrd Skynyrd's history, it did not prevent Pyle from making a movie about his experiences with the band, including the crash.

Pyle Free as a Bird Now to Release Film

The court's unanimous ruling paves the way for Pyle to finish his film, which is in post-production and eyeing a Summer 2019 release. According to the court, "That crash is part of the 'history' of the band, but it is also an 'experience' of Pyle with the band, likely his most important experience."

The court added, "Provisions of a consent decree that both prohibit a movie about such a history and also permit a movie about such an experience are sufficiently inconsistent, or at least insufficiently specific, to support an injunction." There's a mouthful! Plaintiffs have yet to state whether or not they will appeal the ruling, which also overturned the lower court's ruling to pay plaintiff's legal fees, totaling over $600,000.

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