Big WWE Legal Update – Rene Dupree dismisses lawsuit vs. WWE over Network royalties

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PWTorch editor Wade Keller presents a special Thursday Flagship edition of the Wade Keller Pro Wrestling Podcast featuring a WrestleMania 36 Preview with ex-WWE Creative Team member and professional stand-up comedian Matt McCarthy.

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April 11 UPDATE: Rene Goguen (Rene Dupree) filed a legal document Monday voluntarily dismissing his case against WWE over Network royalty payments, as obtained by PWTorch.

The one-page, one-paragraph explanation filed by Goguen’s attorney in Connecticut federal court on Monday reads: “Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 41(a)(1)(A)(i) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Plaintiff Rene Goguen and his counsel, hereby give notice that the above-captioned action is voluntarily dismissed, without prejudice against the defendant World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.”

The writing was on the wall last week when WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt told the media that Goguen signed a buy-out agreement in 2011 – a few years after leaving WWE. McDevitt implied that Goguen voided his original booking contract, which included a provision for royalties from “technology not created” (WWE Network).

Goguen sought damages for himself and “all others similarly situated” who believe they are owed royalty payments for their likeness appearing in WWE Network library content. It remains to be seen if another individual brings forth the same legal action against WWE with a valid booking agreement.

April 7 Report

Rene Goguen (former WWE wrestler Rene Dupree) filed a class-action lawsuit against WWE on Wednesday (April 6) alleging that WWE violated terms of booking contracts by not paying WWE Network royalties to former talent.

Goguen’s lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of Connecticut lists himself “individually and on behalf of all others similar situated” as the plaintiff against WWE as the defendant, according to court documents obtained by PWTorch.

Goguen is seeking WWE pay a royalty to all wrestlers since February 21, 1980 whose likeness appears on Network library content. “It is a breach of contract case involving uniform course of conduct directed at an identifiable class of persons whose rights are established by uniform form contracts,” the suit alleges. “The monetary damages to each putative Class member are generally too small to support individual suits.”

Essentially, Goguen is seeking legal action forcing WWE to pay each individual wrestler what he or she is allegedly owed. “In this case, there are hundreds, potentially thousands of class members, who were adversely affected when Defendant WWE breached its contract,” the suit alleges. “Moreover, consolidation of the claims of hundreds of past performers serves judicial economy, because it obviates the need for thousands of suits.”

The suit broke down various booking contract terms from February 1980 until the present that deal with video product royalties.

The main item Goguen cited from his contract dated June 2003 is a provision that “video products” is defined as “video cassettes, videodiscs, CD ROM, or other technology, including technology not created.” The last item in the list would include WWE Network, Goguen is arguing.

According to the suit, WWE changed their booking contracts on January 1, 2014 to only refer to “DVD/Home Video” intellectual property rights.

Then, according to the suit, WWE changed the verbiage on January 1, 2012 to read WWE owes a royalty to “all persons who signed a WWE Booking Contract when the definition of WWE Video Products was/is ‘product sale – the sale of any WWE authorized product, merchandise, consumer material or good, which is made by or on behalf of WWE,” which excludes the “technology not created” provision.

The Hollywood Reporter initially reported the lawsuit and asked WWE attorney Jerry McDevitt for a response. Goguen left WWE in 2007, but McDevitt claims that Goguen signed a contract in 2011 that disallows Goguen from bringing forth this type of lawsuit. McDevitt added to Yahoo that Goguen “signed a buyout agreement” in 2011.

McDevitt did not get into the specifics of what was signed in 2011, but the implication is WWE believes Goguen waived his rights to the terms of his original booking contract that refer to “technology not created.”

It remains to be seen how the legal process unfolds after Wednesday’s filing and McDevitt’s initial response. Goguen’s suit not only seeks WWE pay a royalty, but a “declaration that WWE’s practice is a breach of contract” and “an injunction barring WWE from continuing this practice until royalties are paid.”

WWE has 21 days (until April 27) to formally respond to the suit. Judge Stefan R. Underhill of Connecticut District Court has been assigned the case.

Goguen is represented by attorney Brenden P. Leydon of Stamford, Conn. and Clinton A. Krislov of Chicago.

– Gogeun foreshadowed the lawsuit in an interview with the Two Man Power of Wrestling in March when he casually said WWE should pay up for Network royalties.

“I wish they would pay me for the WWE Network because I think everyone who is on it should get some type of royalty off of that. Because I guess you are still part of the company in some way if they are showing your stuff, but at the same time they say that nobody watches the ‘old stuff.’ Well take off all the old stuff off and watch your (expletive) subscriber count drop within six months,” Rene told the podcast.

“You know there is a lawsuit coming from that as well? They are being sued by everybody.” Asked if he had been contacted about legal action, Rene coyly said, “I cannot confirm or deny, I plead the fifth.”