Give Me a Break: Stars Sue Over Names

What's in a name? Well, you may get a "cease-and-desist" letter if a famous person shares yours.

Bill Wyman, a reporter who writes about music for Atlanta's biggest newspaper, the Journal-Constitution, was at his desk the other day when someone handed him a threatening letter from a prestigious New York City law firm.

The letter was addressed to Journal-Constitution, and said, "[Y]our publication employs the writing services of an individual using the name Bill Wyman … we believe this to be a seriously misleading and arguably, an intentional, unauthorized exploitation of our client's name."

The firm's client was Bill Wyman, who for years was the bass player for The Rolling Stones.

The law firm wanted journalist Bill Wyman to stop using his own name. "I could use it," said Wyman, "if I ran a prominent disclaimer."

Wyman says he doesn't believe "any sane person thinks that Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones is going to be writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution." And he says nobody has mistaken him for the Stones' bass player in the 20 years he's been working as a journalist.

What makes this "cease and desist" even more incredible is the fact that Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones wasn't even born Bill Wyman. He was born and raised William Perks. He changed his name to Wyman in 1964, three years after the journalist Bill Wyman was born!

So should the journalist Bill Wyman write the bass player a threatening letter about using his name? He said he's not going to do that. He is very good natured about the whole thing. He said, "Rock and roll is a big tent. There's room for both of us."

Musician Bill Wyman and the lawyer who wrote the threats wouldn't agree to a TV interview, but the lawyer wrote us a letter saying that he initially wrote the letter because people were confused. "The law seeks to protect these consumers … indeed, it would be surprising if the Atlanta Journal-Constitution were to run a food column by someone named Julia Child … or movie reviews by a Robert De Niro without" a "disclaimer."

Oh please, what if he had changed his name to Barbara Walters?

The lawyer now says that all the publicity, including my report on 20/20, has solved the problem. People now know which Wyman is which.

The nerve! Lawyers telling people to "cease and desist" from using their own name?

Give Me a Break.

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