WKU’s lawsuit over Big Red copyright infringement revisited after 15 years

Big Red urges the crowd to rise to its feet in support of WKU during the second half of WKU’s game vs MTSU in Diddle Arena. 

Tyler Eaton

After 15 years, a court case in Italy in which WKU and multiple other parties accused an Italian media company of plagiarizing WKU’s Big Red mascot has been revisited, according to ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

The highest court in Italy has published its decision affirming the merits of the plagiarism suit filed by Big Red’s creator, Ralph Carey.

According to previous reporting from the College Heights Herald, WKU had initially sued in 2003, seeking $250 million from the media company Mediaset and Antonio Ricci, who had created a character named Gabibbo that shared similar physical traits to Big Red.


WKU and the companies filing suit with it won the case at the lower courts, but the side led by Ricci and Mediaset won in the court of appeals in Milan.

WKU refiled the suit alongside Carey. Carey created the WKU mascot in 1979. He posted his reaction to the reopening of the lawsuit on Twitter.

{{tncms-inline account=”Ralph Carey” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">It ain't over 'till it's over! <a href="https://twitter.com/Striscia?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Striscia</a> la notizia <a href="https://twitter.com/WKUBigRed?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@wkubigred</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/Corriere?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Corriere</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/repubblica?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@Repubblica</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/nytimes?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@nytimes</a> <a href="https://t.co/9GoKkTT3Y3">https://t.co/9GoKkTT3Y3</a></p>— Ralph Carey (@Ralphcarey) <a href="https://twitter.com/Ralphcarey/status/1004493368842444805?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 6, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/Ralphcarey/status/1004493368842444805″ type=”twitter”}}

Carey created Big Red 12 years before an interview in which Ricci admitted to using Big Red as inspiration for Gabibbo. 

The interview was published in an Italian newspaper in 1991, and in it Ricci says that Gabibbo was “previously a mascot for a basketball team in Kentucky.”

“It has been obvious from inception that Gabibbo is a copy of Big Red,” Steven Crossland, who was charged with managing WKU’s international licenses, said, according to Rovell. “It’s appropriate that the Italian courts acknowledged Antonio Ricci’s article admitting that ‘he rescued Gabibbo from Kentucky.’”

After the party led by WKU and Carey prevailed in the highest court of Italy, the case will now make its way back to the Milan Court of Appeals, which ruled in favor of Mediaset initially.

“We look forward to resolving this case that has dragged on for 15-plus years,” Crossland said, according to Rovell. “Facts are facts and the other side can’t hide from them.”

Rovell’s original tweet showed a side-by-side comparison of the two characters. 

{{tncms-inline account=”Darren Rovell” html=”<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">JUST IN: Western Kentucky’s $200M+ lawsuit against Italian media company it says stole its mascot & turned him into the “Barney of Italy” is alive again after 15 years in the courts <a href="https://t.co/qCDkEWFRXY">https://t.co/qCDkEWFRXY</a> <a href="https://t.co/Kn8bPYgzj5">pic.twitter.com/Kn8bPYgzj5</a></p>— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) <a href="https://twitter.com/darrenrovell/status/1004472199481348098?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 6, 2018</a></blockquote>” id=”https://twitter.com/darrenrovell/status/1004472199481348098″ type=”twitter”}}

Reporter Tyler Eaton can be reached at 270-776-6797 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @at_eaton