Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Monday, June 09, 2003

spike lee vs spike tv

It would appear that the change to Spike TV is, for TNN, perhaps even more misguided than I first thought:

FindLaw's Writ - Hilden: Spike Lee v. Spike TV ..... on June 2, in New York state court, Lee sued TNN, its corporate parents MTV and Viacom, and its President, Albie Hecht, alleging "right of publicity," trademark, and other New York law claims. In addition to seeking an injunction prohibiting the defendants from using the name Spike TV, Lee also seeks money damages. It might seem that Lee's suit is simply an act of hubris - an attempt to virtually copyright the name "Spike." But in fact, the suit may have some merit, and for this reason, Spike TV will be foolish if it fails to seriously consider choosing a new name. [...] The most devastating fact in Lee's favor is this: Hecht apparently admitted in interviews that Spike Lee was one of his major inspirations for his choosing the name "Spike TV." According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, Hecht's role models were "Spike the macho vamp[ire] in Buffy the Vampire Slayer; [and] directors Spike Lee and Spike Jonze." To be fair, Hecht is also quoted, in the same article, as saying he wanted to convey that Spike TV would be "cool," and "aggressive," as in, "to spike a volleyball." But clearly, Spike Lee's image was among the connotations Hecht wanted "Spike TV" to conjure up. I believe that this admission makes Lee's case, which otherwise might seem to verge on megalomania, much more sympathetic. It shows that it is not just Lee himself who believes that "Spike TV" connotes "Spike Lee"; the President of Spike TV himself seems to think so, too.
-- By JULIE HILDEN,, Monday, June 9, 2003

So let me get this straight-ish: the executive has admitted, without any sort of legal pressure, that he wants the new name of his network to conjure up the images of three living people and a trademarked fictional character.

And he's only facing the one lawsuit. I'm impressed at everyone else's restraint.

(... he wants to conjure the image of Spike the vampire. Who just went up in a big puff of ash. Who notoriously described himself as "love's bitch" once upon a time. Who was on a show with an audience that was mostly female and very small, so that most men, who are their target audience, probably don't have a clue who Spike the vampire was. Um ... whatever.)

Maybe Viacom will take the opportunity to change TNN's name to something less silly than SpikeTV. Maybe something like "Big Cars, Big Trucks, Big Boobs Network for Men". (Hey, it's got Horsepower TV, lots and lots of NASCAR and other car races, a show actually called "Trucks", and its about to broadcast a cartoon called featuring a barely-dressed -- and, one assumes, frequently undressed -- character named "Striperella", voiced by Pamela Anderson. BCBTBBtv would at least be accurate.)

Mind, Lee probably did himself absolutely no favors in the court of public opinion by hiring Johnnie Cochran, but that has nothing to do with the legal merits of his case, or the idiocy of Viacom.

Interesting little tidbit buried in the Herald article: "Viacom, which owns the CBS network and Showtime movie channel, bought TNN in 2000. It announced in April that it would change TNN's name to Spike TV on June 16 in an attempt to attract more men to an audience that is already about two-thirds male." So ... surely the issue would be attracting more women to the network, wouldn't it? Or is the problem the demographics? After all, "Striperella" will probably pull in one or two of the 15-34 age set. (Just one or two.) And "Ren and Stimpy" will probably pull in the upper chunk of that age group, out of pure nostalgia.

"I don't want to be associated with some "Stripperella" crap," Lee said after the hearing. The movie maker said he learned about Spike TV from people who called him to say, "I didn't know you had a new network. What's the programming going to be?"

That would seem to give a certain point to his "likelihood of confusion" charge, wouldn't it?

Posted by iain at 06:00 PM in category



You have no clue what the hell your talking about. Spike Lee had no right what so ever to sue TNN. Spike is a word whats he going to do next sue some one for say that their cactus has spike's. I mean come on They have every right to name there network Spike TV. Spike Lee is the one who is wrong, Spike is not even his real name, I didnt even know who the hell he was until he started this damn lawsuit, He is just trying make a quick buck just Like when The World Wildlife Foundation sued the World Wrestling Federation, now know as World Wrestling Entertainment. It is a really stupid thing and I think it should be thrown out of court. And if they do deside that punk ass Spike Lee's name is only for him to use like there can't be two Jhon's or Fred's. He should have to pay TNN back for all the money they spent advertising Spike TV, OH and I will never watch anything by Spike Lee anymore, the stupid AssHole.

Posted by Joe at June 16, 2003 05:16 AM

Spike Lee is an innovative director and artist who's name is asasociated with other great filmmakers like Akira Kurasawa, Martin Scorsese, John Frankenheimer, etc. Is he so insecure an artist that even if SpikeTV leads a small (and I men a select few) group of people to think that "Spike" Lee is associated with it he is a lesser man/artist than I thought. His work speaks for itself. Anyone watching The New TNN will never be confused in thinking that the shows and/or programming has anything to do with it. Bottom line: Spike Lee hasn't been in the limelight for a while, and this is his way of getting back in it. Hey Spike (Lee), can't you just create something original instead of adding to the exploitation of our legal system.

Posted by Darren at June 16, 2003 03:14 PM

I just can't believe that a person can be THAT self absorbed. It's also too bad that a person has to go to these lengths just to see their name in the papers and on the news--PATHETIC!!!! Although I feel that Spike Tv is kind of a silly name, I don't believe one should get their boxers in a bundle about it. Will people now have to change their pet's names to avoid a lawsuit? Will any object that is now known as a spike have to change its identity just to appease Mr. Lee's out of control ego? The situation is ridiculous and the courts shouldn't waste any more time on it.

Posted by M at June 17, 2003 12:41 AM

This lawsuit is nothing more than an attempt to garner publicity in a lazy fashion and raid Viacom's deep pockets [retaning Johnnie Cochran proves that]. The bulldog on 'Tom & Jerry' has had the name Spike for years, HE should sue Lee for degrading the name Spike with his silly films. Spike Lee, if your ego is really THAT big, how can you wear a hat? Real men don't associate you with manly TV [or resort to extorting money]! EARN your money and your publicity!

Posted by Mac at June 19, 2003 08:03 AM

So the head of Viacom admitted that he wanted Spike TV to "conjure" thoughts of Spike Lee...well that guy is almost as big an idiot as Shelton. Spike Lee is not synonymous with anything relating to men. Spikes are phallic, they are for pounding and nailing and driving deep into things. That's what I think when I hear Spike. When I here Spike Lee, I think, "jeez i'd rather be anal molested than watch your movies."

Spike Lee is no talent and girlish. He should sue jesus. Jesus is always tarnishing spike's famously popular and classy name. "Hey I'm da real spike, get yosef down from dere and get dose tangs outa yo wrists you uppity honkey!" (jesus apologizes and forsakes the symbol of the crucifixion) Thanks spike, now that you've made the son of god cower to your will, what will you do? "well i s'pose i ask the lords forgiveness and as many millions of dollars as Johnnie Cochran's former soul is worth to the dark prince himself." at this point spike remembers that the real jesus was as black as that stain in the parking lot outside my office. "i'm sorry jesus, let me re-nail your ass this fucking cross".

The moral of this story is that sticking feathers up your butt does not make you a chicken, but spike's name has always been and always will be...TOBY!!!!!!!!

Posted by Tony Rose at June 19, 2003 04:10 PM

This is an absurd lawsuit by Spike Lee. It's a complete waste of taxpayer funds, court time and Viacom's money. I wrote a letter to the NY Superior State Court Judge Walter Tolub. If you guys are as disgusted that he has let this get as far as it has, let him know by posting him a letter. I've included a copy of my letter and his mailing address on my blogsite (

I didn't realize about the comments above by the President of Viacom though...if it's true, it certainly adds a bit of ammo to the prosecution, but it still doesn't mean Spike Lee's name is like Elvis or Madonna or Cher.

Posted by Barry at June 27, 2003 08:49 PM

I just wanna tell everyone I'm now going to sue anyone who uses the following terms as it henders and sheds bad light upon my name (skidmark, remark and mark ie.. leave a mark, make a mark etc...) Thank You For Not Using My Name Any More!!

Posted by Mark at August 17, 2003 02:32 PM

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