On Friday, the US Tennis Association sued the makers of the film “Venus and Serena” for allegedly misappropriating copyrighted footage of the titular Williams sisters’ play in the US Open. The USTA claims that it had agreed to let the filmmakers record some of the 2011 Open, pursuant to a standard licensing and fee agreement, but that the filmmakers had never taken them up on the offer, leading the USTA to believe the project had been abandoned.
The USTA was therefore stunned to discover that – despite Defendants’ failure to enter into a footage license agreement and pay the requisite licensing fees – Defendants did, in fact, complete and distribute the Film, and included over twenty minutes of unlicensed US Open footage within it. Having failed to reach an agreement with the USTA, or otherwise pay for the footage they used, Defendants simply misappropriated the US Open footage (including footage for which the USTA enjoys copyright protection) for their commercial advantage without regard to the USTA’s rights. Much to the USTA’s dismay, the Film has been, and continues to be, commercially exploited through film festivals, movie theaters, and cable distribution, in willful violation of the USTA’s copyright (and other) rights.
The USTA seeks to enjoin further alleged infringement and damages. The case has been assigned to Judge Ramos. (Hat tip Law360.)