Although the overwhelming majority — 95% — of Americans wear t-shirts, they may not be able to rock Richard Pryor “swag” t-shirts anymore,due to a lawsuit filed by Pryor’s widow. Jennifer Lee Pryor felt the design was offensive to her late husband’s legacy.
The t-shirt’s designer used an image of the noted comedian superimposed with the word “swag,” which Jennifer Lee Pryor did not find funny or amusing in the slightest sense, causing her to sue.
In a detailed 6-page complaint, Jennifer Lee Pryor alleges the online based company, FretShirt, has violated her rights to the likeness of her late husband.
Richard Pryor was an Emmy and Grammy award winner, as well as a recipient of the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. He is also widely recognized as one of the greatest stand-up comedians of all time.
“Through Pryor’s hard work and use of his talents, he created a general acceptance and good will for his name and likeness among the public, the effect of which was to create an absolute, incorporeal and transferable property right with the substantial commercial value in the eyes of the public, which has been transferred to Plaintiff,” the complaint read.
Jennifer Lee Pryor claims FretShirt’s design openly violates a California civil code statute which requires consent from the rightsholder of a deceased person’s likeness for commercial use.
The lawsuit’s hefty $5 million price tag is said to represent the profits FretShirt has made off the Pryor design, in addition to $1 million in compensatory damages. Jennifer Lee Pryor is also pursuing an injunction against the sale of the shirt. She is being represented by McPherson Rane’s Edwin McPherson and Pierre Pine, who filed the complaint in Los Angeles Superior last month.
FretShirt did not respond to the The Hollwood Reporter’s request for comment.
Jennifer Lee Pryor has remained actively involved in the presentation of her late husband’s image, serving as executive producer of the 2013 documentary Richard Pryor: Omit the Logic.