Showtime plans to show the documentary about Venus and Serena Williams beginning August 23, even though the United States Tennis Association wants the U.S. District Court in New York to ban it. The USTA sued VSW Productions on June 14, alleging that the filmmakers infringed on the group’s copyrights by including scenes — presumably Serena’s tirade at the 2009 U.S. Open — that are “not in the best interests of the sport.” But the defendants are mounting a vigorous defense, asking the court in a letter yesterday for a conference to discuss why the case should be dismissed. They say that they shot virtually all of the footage. The big exceptions are “snippets of U.S. Open matches” that had been broadcast and are “easily justifiable” under the law’s “fair use” doctrine, which which gives filmmakers and others a First Amendment right to use copyrighted material without permission when it serves the public interest. The defendants also questioned whether the USTA has a legitimate copyright claim over the recordings, saying that the group didn’t register them with the U.S. Copyright Office “until May 2013, shortly before this lawsuit was commenced.” By that point Venus And Serena had already debuted at the Toronto Film Festival and was available on VOD and iTunes. The USTA made an additional claim that the filmmakers broke their promise to follow its policies and to pay a license fee.
EXCLUSIVE: Oscar-winning documentary maker Alex Gibney just returned the serve the United States Tennis Association made on Friday when it sued the makers of a documentary about Venus and Serena Williams. The USTA told the U.S. District Court in New York that Venus And Serena uses film footage that infringed the organization’s copyrights including scenes — presumably Serena’s tirade at the 2009 U.S. Open — that are “not in the best interests of the sport.” Gibney, the film’s executive producer, says the USTA is trying to “censor this film about America’s most inspiring female athletes.” His colleagues “were entirely within their legal rights to use a small amount of widely seen footage” citing the ”fair use” doctrine, which enables filmmakers and others to use copyrighted material without permission when it serves the public interest. The concept “is vital to filmmakers trying to tell truthful stories and embodies the essence of the First Amendment of the U.S. constitution,” he says. “Indeed, without the fair use doctrine, copyright itself would be unconstitutional. By its actions, the USTA is assaulting the very principle of free speech.”
Specialty B.O. Preview: ‘No One Lives’, ‘And Now A Word From Our Sponsor’, ‘Sightseers’, ‘Venus And Serena’, ‘He’s Way More Famous Than You’, ‘One Track Heart: The Story Of Krishna Das’
Brian Brooks is a Deadline contributor.
Thrillers and docs populate the Specialty newcomers this weekend with genre (and genre-esque) fare ranging from a gang of highway killers who kidnap a couple to a soft-spoken couple who go on a road trip and find themselves embarking on a killing spree among the limited release titles opening in theaters. Anchor Bay Films will follow up its Rob Zombie rollout in April with No One Lives, while IFC Films will bow its British twisted comedy Sightseers. Paladin is hoping to capitalize on its North American opening of And Now A Word From Our Sponsor to shore up its international rollout, while Gravitas Ventures is banking on the story of an aspiring actress who steals a script to make a movie, in He’s Way More Famous Than You, to charm audiences. Magnolia Pictures will open Toronto doc Venus And Serena as the French Open makes its way to sports fans and Zeitgeist’s doc One Track Heart: The Story Of Krishna Das makes its way to the spiritually inclined this weekend.
No One Lives
Director: Ryûhei Kitamura
Writer: David Cohen
Cast: Luke Evans, Adelaide Clemens, Derek Magyar, Lee Tergesen, America Olivo
Distributor: Anchor Bay Films
Anchor Bay Films picked up No One Lives out of the Toronto International Film Festival last year. The thriller centers on a gang of highway killers who kidnap a wealthy couple traveling across the country, but then things aren’t exactly what they seem. “It has one of the best scenes with one of the top 10 scenes in a horror film ever,” boasted Bill Lewis, SVP Theatrical Marketing and Distribution at Anchor Bay. “We [released] the clip of the scene Wednesday. It’s such a great shot.” The company partnered with WWE Studios, the production subsidiary of World Wrestling Entertainment, which produced the film. “Their biggest fan base is also where we decided to target theatrical locations,” said Lewis. “They’re a tremendous partner with great assets and they’re behind their film 100% and lucky they have the assets to push it.”