Judge orders return of stolen celebrity phone-address directory
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ It’s the ultimate map to the stars’ homes _ a telephone-address directory of 9,000 celebrities. And it was in the hands of a mass mailing company which was ordered by a judge to give it back.
The list, however, has been available for about six months _ since it was stolen _ and it is unclear how widely it has already been distributed.
The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, seeking to protect its members from stalkers, paparazzi and others bent on prying into celebrity lives, sued Premiere Mail Service for the return of the list.
The academy claimed a former employee stole the closely guarded list and sold it to Premiere’s president, Thomas Cupp. He refused to return it because he said the academy owes him $134,000 from a previous contract.
Premiere’s attorney Beryl Crompton argued there was no confidentiality clause attached to the list, but academy attorney Calvin Davis said few people at the academy have passwords and codes to access it.
``They have gone to extraordinary means to protect this list,″ Judge Diane Wayne told Crompton at a hearing Thursday to block further distribution of the list.
``Your client should have known the list was stolen,″ she said. ``He can’t profit by it.″
The judge also banned any copies from being made and told the academy it could retrieve the computer file from Premiere.
``It is a complete victory for the academy,″ Davis said after the hearing. ``This is basically every significant person who works in the TV industry.
``This kind of information isn’t available anywhere. It’s unique,″ he said. ``There’s a safety issue. There’s a privacy issue.″
The lawsuit also claimed that Premiere paid Jonathan Downing, a former office manager at the academy, on a sliding scale based on how much money was generated from sales of the list. Downing quit his job at the academy about six months ago, spokesman Murray Weisberg said.
The nearly 50-year-old academy, which awards TV’s Emmys, uses its membership list to ship ballots and videotapes of nominated shows.
The organization didn’t learn its roster was gone until members began calling when junk mail, from subscription solicitations to pornographic material, started showing up in show business mailboxes.
No trial date was set for the lawsuit, which seeks more than $500,000 in damages.
The suit claims misappropriation of trade secrets, unfair trade practices, unfair competition and possession of personal property against all defendants. Downing also was accused of breaching his confidential relationship with the academy.