LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Comedian Carol Burnett has filed a copyright infringement suit against the makers of Fox TV’s cartoon sitcom “Family Guy” over an episode poking fun at the performer and her variety show from the 1960s and ‘70s.
The lawsuit, filed on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, claims “Family Guy” violated Burnett’s exclusive rights to her name and likeness by depicting her signature cleaning-woman character in a segment last April without her consent.
The suit, which seeks at least $2 million in damages, also says the cartoon episode used a “slightly altered version” of the copyrighted musical theme to “The Carol Burnett Show” without permission from the 73-year-old entertainer.
A spokesman for 20th Century Fox Television, which produces “Family Guy,” said on Friday the suit was without merit and that references to Burnett and her show in an 18-second sequence of the cartoon amounted to parody.
“‘Family Guy,’ like the ‘Carol Burnett Show,’ is famous for its pop culture parodies and satirical jabs at celebrities,” the studio said in a statement. “We are surprised that Ms. Burnett, who has made a career of spoofing others on television, would go so far as to sue ‘Family Guy’ for a simple bit of comedy.”
The episode in question refers to Burnett by name as working as a part-time janitor, and depicts her “charwoman” character — complete with trademark blue bonnet and mop bucket — cleaning the floor of a pornography shop, the suit says.
Another character then makes a vulgar reference to the signature ear tug used by Burnett at the close of her variety show each week, according to the lawsuit.
Burnett and her company have urged Fox to reedit the “Family Guy” episode to remove any reference her, but the studio has so far refused, the suit said.
“The Carol Burnett Show,” combining comedy sketches and musical performances, aired on CBS from 1967 to 1978 and was one of the most popular shows on U.S. television in that era.