Belfast Telegraph

Legal grapple over wrestler's image on Van Morrison album is settled

By Ivan Little

Lawyers for the retired Native American wrestler who was threatening to sue Van Morrison over a photograph of him on the Belfast singer's new album cover say the fight is over.

Billy Two Rivers, a major star of the ring in Britain and America in the Fifties and Sixties, had filed a lawsuit in New York over the use of his picture on the front of Van's forthcoming album Roll With The Punches.

The 82-year-old Canadian claimed he wasn't asked for his permission to use the image, which shows him in his heyday, sporting his trademark Mohawk hairstyle and throwing an un-named opponent to the floor.

The legal proceedings were against Morrison and his record company, Universal Music Group.

Two Rivers' lawyer Michael R Graif, who is one of New York's top intellectual property advocates, said the former wrestler's rights of publicity had been violated.

He added that he hoped the legal action could be resolved quickly.

Yesterday the Montreal Gazette reported that a settlement had been reached.

Mr Graif said: "My client and the defendants reached an agreement in principle to settle this case."

The lawyer would not reveal what the terms of the settlement were, but he said the agreement was in the process of being finalised.

He said that the parties had agreed to put the litigation on hold until then.

"It's in the interest of all the parties to resolve this amicably without further litigation."

Radio station K103.7, which broadcasts close to where Two Rivers lives in Kahnawake near Quebec, reported that the terms of the settlement might never be known.

It said: "No dollar figure has been released and it will likely remain under an agreement not to divulge that number."

It also said that there was no indication yet as to whether the photograph of Two Rivers would stay on the album cover. But yesterday Morrison's official website was still promoting Roll With The Punches with the photograph on the front of the album.

After quitting the wrestling ring Billy Two Rivers, who often topped the bill at fight nights in Belfast's Ulster Hall, became the chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake.

He later starred in a number of films and TV series.

Morrison's new album, which features his versions of blues and soul classics as well as five of his own compositions, is due to be released next month.

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