Fight the Power

When you’ve got power, you can count on one thing — you’ll have to defend it. This year some prominent rabble-rousers went head-to-head with Goliaths of the entertainment industry.

WINNER Piedmont Environmental Council et al. vs. Disney’s America. The PEC spearheaded more than 70 groups that opposed Disney’s planned 3,000-acre historical theme park near Manassas, Va. * Repercussions: Last month, Disney nixed the location, saying it would seek a new site. * Bottom Line: ”We haven’t let our guard down,” says the PEC’s Chris Miller. ”They (Disney) don’t have a great track record of saying what they’re actually doing.”

LOSERS George Michael vs. Sony. Stubbled pop star sued his record company, alleging restraint of trade and failure to promote his 1990 album, Listen Without Prejudice, Vol. 1. * Repercussions: Britain’s High Court ruled against Michael, saying his lawsuit had ”no substance” and ordering him to pay both sides’ costs (estimated to be roughly $4.5 million). * Bottom Line: You gotta have more than faith.

Elizabeth Taylor vs. NBC. Reportedly upset by rumors that an upcoming NBC biopic planned to depict her as a battered wife, La Liz sued to block the production, saying that it would devalue her name as a registered trademark. * Repercussions: A judge ruled that Taylor’s request would violate the First Amendment, adding that she may file another suit after the film is completed. * Bottom Line: Of all people, Taylor should know that the only bad publicity is no publicity.

JURY OUT Metallica vs. Elektra Records. The longhairs are suing to get out of their Elektra contract, claiming that Warner Music’s Robert Morgado reneged on a joint-venture agreement reached with former Elektra chief Bob Krasnow. * Repercussions: If Metallica — which has reportedly made $200 million for Elektra — wins, look for powerhouses at other labels to bolt too. * Bottom Line: ”It seems to signal a new vibe up there,” says drummer Lars Ulrich, ”and we’re not sure we want to be a part of it.”

Pearl Jam vs. Ticketmaster. The biggest band in the land took on the most powerful ticket agency, charging that an unfair monopoly makes it tough for Joe Public to afford live grunge — and downright impossible for bands to set up a tour outside the Ticketmaster network. * Repercussions: Pearl Jam put their summer tour on hold, and the battle made its way to the Capitol, where a congressional panel proposed a bill that would force brokers to print their service charge on each ticket. * Bottom Line: With strong backing from three congressmen, the bill recently won a hearing with a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Chances look good for the bill to make its way to the Capitol floor next session.