SBD/June 18, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

USTA Sues Filmmakers Over Williams Sisters Doc, Alleging Copyright Infringement

The USTA in a lawsuit "accused the makers of a new documentary" about tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, "Venus and Serena," of "copyright infringement for using more than 20 minutes of video from the 2011 United States Open and previous ones without signing an agreement," according to Richard Sandomir of the N.Y. TIMES. The USTA in the lawsuit also said that filmmakers Maiken Baird and Michelle Major "used four times more video than would have been permitted in an agreement." The association added that the filmmakers "used video that was 'not in the best interest of the sport': Serena Williams’s 2009 vitriolic tirade against a line judge." The filmmakers' spokesperson Davidson Goldin said that talks "collapsed over an agreement to use archival footage when the USTA refused to let them use" the '09 clip. The filmmakers "used it anyway, saying it fell under the fair-use exception to a copyright owner’s right to control his or her intellectual property." Baird and Major said, “In trying to censor this film about the Williams sisters, the USTA is simply making up an agreement that never existed -- we shot footage at the U.S. Open with the USTA’s permission and of course never agreed to pay them for our own work" (NYTIMES.com, 6/17). In N.Y., Josh Kosman reports the lawsuit, which was filed on Friday in White Plains, N.Y. federal court, "seeks a permanent injunction" against the film. The film "opened last month in limited release." It was "expected to air on Showtime." However, the channel yesterday said it is in "discussions with the filmmakers and their representations about this film" (N.Y. POST, 6/18).
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