Despite legal issues, "Venus and Serena" set to be aired on Showtime

SBD/July 3, 2013/Media

Filmmakers Behind Venus-Serena Doc Doc Plan To Seek Damages From USTA

The makers of the documentary "Venus and Serena" say the USTA did not file to copyright disputed footage until May of this year, and said in a letter to the judge overseeing the case they planned to seek damages themselves from the USTA. The governing body last month sued filmmakers Maiken Baird and Michelle Major, alleging U.S. Open footage used in the documentary was unauthorized, and asked for an injunction against further showing of the film. In a press announcement disclosing the letter to the judge, a publicist for the filmmakers said Showtime nevertheless has announced airtimes for the film. Showtime is a unit of CBS, which recently lost out on rights to the U.S. Open past '14. The letter contends that the footage, which includes Serena’s notorious arguments with a lineswoman over a foot fault call, was not copyright protected when the film debuted. But a USTA spokesperson in an email wrote, "You are entitled to copyright protection regardless of whether you file or not. ... Filing merely enables you to seek attorneys fees and additional damages." The letter, sent to N.Y. federal judge Edgardo Ramos, said the filmmakers would seek attorneys' fees and other currently unspecified redress (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer).

NINE LIVES: ESPN on Tuesday night premiered "Venus Vs.," a documentary about Venus Williams that marked the first installment in the net's "Nine for IX" series marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX. The film received generally possitive reviews on Twitter. USA Today's Dan Wolken wrote, "The Venus thing was good, but I'd really like to see a 30-for-30 on Monica Seles. Can you imagine if that happened in Twitter era?" ESPN's Jemele Hill added, "The fact that screams are tolerated on the court now makes Venus' penalty for her beads dropping more preposterous … I don't need anybody in my mentions holla'ing about 3 sets vs 5 sets and can't tell me the no. 1 ranked men's player w/I Google." ESPN N.Y.'s Jane McManus wrote, "Truth is, they are picking some beautiful images of Venus and Serena for this documentary. That NYT Mag cover was strong. … Petunias, begonias, azaleas, magnolias, tomato plants - I don't care what kind of flora, it's not worth sacrificing equal pay. #VenusVs … I felt like I was at that Wimbledon meeting. Really well done." Columbia Univ. journalism professor Emily Bell added, "Gripped by ESPN program on Venus Williams, equal prize money for women and #Wimbledon."
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