The USTA (United States Tennis Association) has filed a lawsuit against the directors (Maiken Baird and Michelle Major) of Venus and Serena, the documentary that gives an unfiltered look into the remarkable lives of the greatest sister-act professional tennis has ever seen.
In the papers filed in federal court on Friday, the USTA claims copyright infringement, alleging that the filmmakers used footage from the 2011 U.S. Open without the organization’s consent.
According to The New York Times, the USTA also alleges that Baird and Major used quadruple the amount of footage than what the USTA would have OK’d, if there were indeed an agreement, adding that the footage used was “not in the best interest of the sport.”
The footage in question being Serena’s tirade against a chair umpire after being called for a foul, during the 2010 US Open.
Baird and Major have dismissed the allegations, stating, “In trying to censor this film about the Williams sisters… the U.S.T.A. is simply making up an agreement that never existed – we shot footage at the U.S. Open with the U.S.T.A.’s permission and of course never agreed to pay them for our own work.“
This marks the second time since the film debuted on the film festival circuit last fall, that it’s been at the center of controversy. Recall this is the same documentary that the sisters were reportedly upset over because of how it portrays their father, Richard Williams – “his foibles, from his out-of-wedlock children to a 78-page manifesto he had plotting out his daughters’ success at a very young age.”
The film includes interviews with Bill Clinton, Billie Jean King, John McEnroe, Arnon Milchan, Gay Telese, Anna Wintour among others.
By the way, long-time Spike Lee editor Sam Pollard (and director of Slavery By Another Name), cut this Williams sisters doc as well.
It debut at the Toronto International Film Festival last September; I eventually saw it at the DOC NYC festival and gave it a positive review.