EXCLUSIVE: (UPDATED with statement from filmmakers) After decades of legal wars between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow and various jurisdictions over sexual child assault claims against the Oscar-winning director, HBO’s Allen v. Farrow docuseries may have opened a whole new battlefield.
Skyhorse Publishing is seriously contemplating a copyright infringement lawsuit against the premium cabler and the filmmakers behind the four-part docuseries for unauthorized use of audio from Allen’s 2020 memoir Apropos of Nothing.
“Neither the producers nor HBO ever approached Skyhorse to request permission to use excerpts from the audiobook,” the publishing company told Deadline on Monday.
“Skyhorse received information second hand only at the very end of last week that each of the documentary’s four episodes makes extensive use of audiobook excerpts,” Skyhorse added.
“Promptly on Friday, February 19, our attorney notified HBO’s in-house counsel by letter that if the use of the audiobook were anywhere near what we were hearing, it would constitute copyright infringement. HBO has not responded to our letter.”
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“Having now seen the first episode, we believe that its unauthorized use of the audiobook is clear, willful infringement under existing legal precedent, and that the other episodes will infringe, too, if they appropriate the audiobook in a similar manner,” Skyhorse continued.
“We will take the legal action we deem necessary to redress our and Woody Allen’s rights in his intellectual property.”
Skyhorse would not elaborate on their future plans beyond its statement to Deadline. HBO did not respond to requests for comment on the letter when contacted by Deadline.
Excerpts from the Allen-narrated memoir appear throughout the four-part HBO docuseries, including more than three minutes in the first episode alone. The Fair Use Doctrine, which allows copyrighted material to be used without permission in certain news reporting, criticism and specific other formats, generally allows for under 10 seconds of said copyrighted material to be included in a project.
“The creators of Allen v. Farrow legally used limited audio excerpts from Woody Allen’s memoir in the series under the Fair Use doctrine,” a representative for directors Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick said in a statement later Monday
Allen v. Farrow filmmakers Ziering and Dick gained full access to Mia Farrow and daughter Dylan Farrow for Allen v. Farrow, which covers their accusations of sexual child assault against Allen, and how the filmmaker has had a grip on the legal system.
Since the accusation was made in 1992, Allen has denied any impropriety with his adopted daughter Dylan, who was 7 at the time of the alleged assault.
Earlier, Deadline reported on Skyhorse’s official statement about HBO use of Apropos of Nothing “without permission.” Ziering and Dick used portions of the audiobook, which Allen reads from, to represent his side in the docuseries. This was after the filmmakers reached out to Allen, his wife Soon-Yi Previn and Moses Farrow to participate in the documentary.
On Sunday night, a spokesperson for Allen and Previn said they were “approached less than two months ago and given only a matter of days ‘to respond.’ Of course, they declined to do so.” Allen and Previn’s spokesperson also said, “These documentarians had no interest in the truth. Instead, they spent years surreptitiously collaborating with the Farrows and their enablers to put together a hatchet job riddled with falsehoods.”
Allen’s memoir was originally set to be published by Grand Central Publishing, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, the same publisher of his son Ronan Farrow’s Harvey Weinstein investigation book Catch and Kill. Farrow called Hachette out, and there was a walkout of 75 of the publisher’s employees in protest of Allen’s autobiography being published. After Hachette canceled publication of the memoir, Skyhorse picked it up under its Arcade Publishing imprint in March 2020.
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