The courts have ruled in favor of BBC and Showtime in regards to a 2018 lawsuit Bobby Brown filed against the two networks over their joint documentary, Whitney: Can I Be Me?.
As we wrote last year, Brown and the estate of his late daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown sued the networks for $2 million. Brown and the estate claimed that Brown and Bobbi Kristina’s images were used without consent and violated the Lanham Act.
Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Colleen McMahon dismissed the lawsuit, said The Hollywood Reporter. According to the article, McMahon wrote in her ruling that the documentary about singer Whitney Houston’s life “is protected under the First Amendment” because it is “an expressive work.”
“Here, Defendants and the film’s directors, producers, and associated creative staff drew upon the raw materials of Whitney Houston’s life story and created a film depicting that story,” she wrote. “Courts applying California law have consistently held that films and television programs based on true events are constitutionally protected expressive works.” She also added that the film is a “matter of public interest,” also leading to its constitutional protection. The “appropriation of a celebrity’s likeness,” she wrote, “may be important to uninhibited debate on public issues, particularly debate about culture and values.”
The ruling also negates Brown’s claim that he never signed a release form allowing his image or his daughters to be used for the documentary. McMahon ruled that a release isn’t needed, writing, “no acquisition is required where First Amendment concerns are implicated.” She also wrote that the examples Brown used in his suit were for “commercial advertisements.” She could be referring to a separate suit Brown also filed against B2 Entertainment in 2018, in which he stated that the company breached their contract with him regarding not allowing his image or images of his family or inner circle to be used without consent in television or film.
Brown’s other claim of the film being in violation of the Lanham Act, which protects from similar trademarks and prevents brand confusion, was also thrown out. McMahon wrote that none of the reviews regarding the film featured reviewers wrongly believing that Brown himself endorsed the film. She also wrote that the film’s producers “specifically identify the persons responsible for the film, and Bobby Brown is not among them.”
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