Internet celebrity 'Sweet Brown' sues Apple

An Oklahoma woman who found Internet fame after she was interviewed by a local television station following a fire near her apartment is suing Apple Inc. and others for $15 million in federal court, records show.
by Andrew Knittle Modified: March 11, 2013 at 1:42 pm •  Published: March 10, 2013

An Oklahoma woman who found Internet fame with the catchphrase “Ain't nobody got time for that!” has filed a lawsuit against Apple Inc., saying it did not have permission to benefit from a musical mashup of her quirky television interview.

Kimberly Wilkins, who identified herself as “Sweet Brown” in the interview, said she was defrauded when her voice and likeness were used to sell songs on iTunes, the hugely successful online music store owned by Apple.

The case is pending in federal court.

Wilkins was interviewed April 8, 2012, by KFOR reporters covering an apartment fire near NW 23 and Villa. Her son, who can be seen at times covering his face and shaking his head in what appears to be embarrassment, paced behind her nearly the whole time.

During the interview, she made comments and used several phrases — all within the space of about 20 seconds — that have since made her, well, somewhat famous.

“Well, I woke up to get me a cold pop and then I thought somebody was barbecuing,” Brown told the reporter. “I said, ‘Oh Lord Jesus, it's a fire.' Then I ran out, I didn't grab no shoes or nothing, Jesus. I ran for my life and then the smoke got me. I got bronchitis. Ain't nobody got time for that.”

In the suit, Wilkins claims that representatives from the Bob Rivers Show in the Seattle area called her at home the day after the KFOR broadcast and asked “general questions relating to the apartment fire.”

That same day, the suit claims, the radio station produced a song called, “I Got Bronchitis,” which sampled several of the phrases Wilkins had used during the April 8 interview with KFOR.

By April 10, the song was available on iTunes, the lawsuit states.

“At no time did Sweet Brown consent or agree to have her name, likeness, voice, statements, photograph used in connection with any products, songs, video productions, merchandise, goods, advertisements or solicitations for merchandise, goods or service,” the lawsuit states.

Attempts to contact attorneys representing Apple Inc. were not successful. Court documents show that “I Got Bronchitis” was for sale on iTunes from April 16 to June 29.

A review of court documents does not reveal how many times the track was downloaded on iTunes.

Initially, Wilkins and a co-plaintiff, a woman named Sparkell Adams, were demanding $15 million from the defendants, including $7.5 million in punitive damages. An amended lawsuit filed in December does not specify how much money the two women are seeking.

Adams, who refused to comment on the lawsuit, is described as Wilkins' business manager.

At this point in the legal proceedings, Wilkins and Adams have no attorneys, court records show.

Two attorneys who were handling the case, at least for a few weeks, were granted permission to withdraw from the proceedings March 1.

“There are unresolvable differences between counsel and the plaintiffs that require withdrawal of counsel,” one of the attorneys wrote in a motion to withdraw.

Wilkins, who has done some local commercials and made numerous TV and radio appearances since the April 8 interview, could not be reached to comment on this story.

In addition to Apple, the lawsuit names as defendants the Bob Rivers Show and Citicasters Co., the San Antonio, Texas, company that owns the radio station that broadcast the show.

by Andrew Knittle
Investigative Reporter
Andrew Knittle has covered state water issues, tribal concerns and major criminal proceedings during his career as an Oklahoma journalist. He has won reporting awards from the state's Associated Press bureau and prides himself on finding a real...
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