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Hank Azaria wins copyright tiff with Bierko over sports character

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Feb 24, 2014 | 12:34pm EST

Actor Hank Azaria has won a legal wrangle with Cinderella Man star Craig Bierko over a comical sports announcer they both insisted they had created. The Simpsons regular asked a judge to declare his copyright over the Jim Brockmire character, which he portrayed in a 2010 FunnyorDie.com video following a spat between the two actors. The copyright dispute was resolved on Friday (21Feb14) when a judge ruled in Azaria's favour, allowing him to move forward with plans to create a film featuring the brash baseball announcer, despite opposition from Bierko. Azaria claimed he created the Brockmire character as a party piece in the mid-1980s and only became aware of Bierko's similar creation when they met at a party through mutual friend Matthew Perry. Azaria filed his lawsuit in 2012 after premiering the FunnyorDie video Jim Brockmire, a Legend in the Booth. The mockumentary, which featured real-life U.S. sports announcers, became a viral hit. He feared a legal threat from Bierko, who previously had opposed Azaria's plans to make a film featuring the character. In his ruling on Friday, U.S. District Judge Gary Feess stated that Azaria had created character attributes and clothing, while Bierko's announcer was "extremely vague". Judge Feess added, "Defendant has offered no description of him other than that he is 'a white, male baseball announcer,' who expresses himself in a 'uniquely American and arguably musical' fashion." The judge also dismissed Bierko's claim that he and Azaria had an implied contract following a 1997 discussion, during which Azaria was told he couldn't use the character. The judge stated that Bierko presented no evidence he disclosed his announcer voice in 1990 'for sale', and no evidence that seven years later, there was any disclosure.

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