Evel Knievel Sues AOL, But He'll Never Stop That Video from Circulating

By Steve Bryant  |  Posted 2006-12-13 Print this article Print

evel.jpgYa heard? Evel Knievel has sued Kanye West because West's "Touch the Sky" video allegedly infringes on Knievel's likeness. Also sued is AOL, which the lawsuit alleges helped distribute the video.

According to the lawsuit, "use of AOL's own search engine for a video of 'Evel Knievel' returned the infringing music video as the second hit generated by the search ... Upon information and belief, AOL stopped distributing the infringing music video in response to Evel Knievel's demand that it do so."

Sorry Evel, but I think AOL done told you wrong. Or (more likely) AOL did remove the video but can't control what its video search engine indexes. The first five results from a search on AOL Video for "evel knievel" returns only Kanye West references, news reports, and the video.

A search on AOL's main search engine doesn't return any video results. A search on YouTube returns mostly Evel Knievel footage. Searching for "Kanye West Knievel" returns nothing, but a search for "Touch the Sky" reveals a few clips from the video. Google Video has some live Kanye performances, but not the Knievel video.

I'm surprised that YouTube doesn't have much of the Kanye West video.

I wonder--if Evel somehow manages to win his lawsuit, would the courts decree that it's illegal to host a copy of the video? Notwithstanding the fact that you could never enforce such a broad action, I don't know that the courts have that power. Could Knievel then sue for greater monetary compensation on the basis that the video will always be available to consumers?

Below, the Kanye West video and a few interesting facts about Mr. Knievel gleaned from the lawsuit:

  • Evel's name is protected by three registered trademarks, Nos. 2450740 (a word mark covering his name on decals, playing cards, pens, etc.), 2481629 (covering motorcycle stunt shows), and 2864119 (covering his likeness on video game machines)
  • The Evel Knievel jumpsuit is featured in the Smithsonian's "Legacies" exhibition and in the Museum of American History, thus enjoying trade dress protection, according to the lawsuit.
  • The sale of Evel Knievel toys, bicycles, watches and other products have grossed over $300 million.
  • Two movies have been made about Evel: "Evel Knievel" starring George Hamilton, and "Viva Knievel" starring Evel Knievel himself. Viacom produced a made-for-TV movie about Evel starring Sam Elliot, and Evel has appeared in the "Bionic Woman." Evel has also been the subject of several documentaries.
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