Venus and Serena Williams File Documentary Lawsuit

serena williams

The United States Tennis Association has voiced its displeasure with filmmakers Maiken Baird and Michelle Major and is filing suit over unauthorized footage being used in their upcoming documentary, Venus and Serena. Discussing the sisters’ rise to stardom, the film has encountered a bit of a speed bump on the road to its July 1st debut.

Atypical of other copyright lawsuits, this one is not without its faults (pun intended). Like any other exclusive event, the USTA does not let just anybody with a camera to show up and start filming—permission is necessary and invitations are required. Citing e-mail correspondence between filmmakers and the representatives of the USTA, permission was requested and granted with an understanding that the footage needed to be licensed.

This is where the lawyers come into

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play. The Hollywood Reporter reports that Major and his crew “had every intention to license footage” and “[they] had no idea that [the USTA] had not wanted us to put in parts they saw as bad for tennis.” Major had included footage from Serena Willams’ John McEnroe-esque outburst at a line judge in the 2009 U.S. Open. These scenes made the USTA nervous about the film as they have strict licensing guidelines regarding footage that is in the best interest of the sport.

The suit claims also that filmmakers exceeded an agreed upon 5-minute limit use of licensed footage and ignored a stipulation excluding the right to air the film on cable TV during the three weeks of the U.S. Open. The USTA may have ulterior motives for filing as speculation has risen that the they are trying to protect the recent 11 year, $770 million contract recently signed with ESPN.

Whatever the reason may be, this match is far from over.

Photo courtesy of Just Jared