Showtime plans to show the documentary about Venus and Serena Williams beginning August 23, even though the United States Tennis Association wants the U.S. District Court in New York to ban it. The USTA sued VSW Productions on June 14, alleging that the filmmakers infringed on the group’s copyrights by including scenes — presumably Serena’s tirade at the 2009 U.S. Open — that are “not in the best interests of the sport.” But the defendants are mounting a vigorous defense, asking the court in a letter yesterday for a conference to discuss why the case should be dismissed. They say that they shot virtually all of the footage. The big exceptions are “snippets of U.S. Open matches” that had been broadcast and are “easily justifiable” under the law’s “fair use” doctrine, which which gives filmmakers and others a First Amendment right to use copyrighted material without permission when it serves the public interest. The defendants also questioned whether the USTA has a legitimate copyright claim over the recordings, saying that the group didn’t register them with the U.S. Copyright Office “until May 2013, shortly before this lawsuit was commenced.” By that point Venus And Serena had already debuted at the Toronto Film Festival and was available on VOD and iTunes. The USTA made an additional claim that the filmmakers broke their promise to follow its policies and to pay a license fee. Yesterday’s letter says that the group’s complaint “twists…out of context quotes” adding that the filing doesn’t prove that the filmmakers “knew of such policies, let alone specifically promised to abide by them.” The USTA wants to bar further sales and showings of the film, and collect damages. The defendants say that they’ll “seek redress including attorneys’ fees for the USTA’s attempt to use copyright law to prevent Defendants from telling their story.”
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