Nash Bridges and a Very Valuable Copyright

Posted on August 25, 2010


Thanks to a copyright, Don Johnson just became an even wealthier man.

The former Miami Vice star sued Rysher Entertainment, the production company behind Nash Bridges, and two other defendants for breach of contract. (The mid-‘90s police series that featured Johnson and punchy sidekick Cheech Marin ran from 1996 to 2001 and is still shown in over 40 countries worldwide). Johnson’s argument, according to the Jere Beasley Report, was that “he was entitled to half the profits from the show because he owned half of its copyright.”

Under the 1995 contract, if Johnson completed 66 episodes of the show, then a 50% share of the show’s copyright ownership would vest with Johnson. The series was canceled after the 122nd episode.

Bart Williams, attorney for Rysher, argued that because of the highly paid actors and the San Francisco location, the show was extremely expensive and may never make a profit. This argument proved to be unsuccessful and, after less than a day of deliberation, jurors deemed his copyright claim to be valid and awarded Johnson $23.2 million for his share of the copyright ownership of the show to this point. The jury found that Johnson does indeed own half of the series, therefore entitling him to 50% of all future syndication profits for the show.

As expected, the defendants are unhappy with the verdict. “Rysher is extremely disappointed in today’s verdict in the matter of Don Johnson Productions vs. Rysher and will aggressively pursue all legal recourse,” said Bart H. Williams of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, Rysher Entertainment’s attorney, in a statement. “While we respect the jury’s right to their judgment, there are several matters of law that will form the basis of Rysher’s appeal. We are ready to undergo the appeals process and are confident that in the end, today’s outcome will be reversed.”

We will continue to update you if Rysher does, in fact, appeal.

Elizabeth Ritter
Ritter Law Firm, LLC