Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Williams sisters documentary ruffling USTA's frocks

The United States Tennis Association isn't feeling very much love for Venus and Serena Williams — the sport's most marketable female stars — these days.

That's the message the USTA is sending out after suing the makers of a new documentary on the sisters  for copyright infringement claiming the filmmakers used unflattering — including Serena's infamous outburst during the 2009 US Open — footage without permission.

"The USTA declined [the] request to include certain footage which the USTA determined was not in the best interest of the sport," according to the complaint. It also contends the filmmakers had "broken their promises to the USTA by including unlicensed US Open footage in their commercial, for-profit film."

The suit filed Friday in White Plains, N.Y. federal court seeks a permanent injunction against "Venus and Serena," which opened last month in limited release. The film was expected to air on Showtime, but yesterday the pay-TV channel said it is in "discussions with the filmmakers and their representations about this film."

The USTA claims that broadcast journalists Maiken Baird and Michelle Major, along with VSW Productions, included footage that "the USTA made clear it would not license for use in the film."

The documentary shows Serena’s 2009 bizarre tantrum at the US Open semifinals in which she waved a tennis ball at a line judge, warning she would "shove it down" her throat.

“What is the USTA afraid of? We’re shocked by this shameful effort to interfere with telling the story of the two most iconic female athletes in American history — a film that they have supported and collaborated on for years,” Baird and Major said in a statement.

The filmmakers have the support of one sister. Serena, who, speaking last month at the New York premiere of the movie, called it "a really great film" and said the producers were "wonderful."

Venus reportedly withdrew her support because of the way it portrayed her father, Richard Williams, as a playboy.

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