By JEFFREY GOLD
Associated Press Writer
"This is bootleg merchandise which is hiding behind the fact that small, third-world countries put a seal of approval on them," said their lawyer, Paul Licalsi.
But attorneys for the distributor, International Collectors Society, say let it be. ICS, of Owings Mills, Maryland, is within its rights to market the stamps, they argue.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court here in April, is still months or years from trial. Depositions could begin following a scheduling conference next month, and ICS lawyers say they want to take depositions from Ono, John Lennon's widow, as well as Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.
None of the four are plaintiffs, but they are the owners of the Beatles marketing entity, Apple Corps Ltd., which is suing. Also suing ICS is McCartney's merchandising company and Lennon's estate, of which Ono is executrix.
"They'll have to come in and sing their tune factually, and melodiously, supporting their position," said Donald A. Robinson of Newark, a lawyer for ICS. "Let them submit to cross-examination on why they think my clients are violating the law."
Licalsi called such a demand a litigation tactic, but said that if ordered to, Yoko and the surviving Beatles would be happy to testify, as they have in the past.
"They're very, very serious about protecting their rights, and protecting their fans," said Licalsi, of New York.
ICS is not the only firm selling stamps from such nations as Chad, Madagascar, St. Vincent and Tanzania that market stamps bearing Beatles likenesses, Robinson said.
"What's wrong with buying the stamps, as many people do, and redistributing them to stamp collectors at a profit?" he asked.
The stamps are internationally recognized as legitimate postage, the parties agree.
One sheet of nine Tanzanian stamps, which have face values totaling $1.66, are sold by ICS for $12.95, Licalsi said.
"I don't believe the Beatles are any kind of cultural icons in Tanzania. This is pure profit, and a ripoff of Beatles fans and a ripoff of the Beatles," he said.
The Beatles lawsuit charges ICS with violating copyright and licensing laws by selling stamps that use licensed likenesses. It alleges that ICS works with foreign governments and arranges for Beatles stamps to be produced, but with only a minimal number actually being sold in that nation's post offices.
ICS attorney Bradford J. Badke of New York maintains those claims are groundless, saying that the Beatles improperly registered some copyrights and have abandoned rights to others.