Judge Blocks Aretha Franklin Documentary from Screening


LOS ANGELES - A federal judge has blocked the screening of “Amazing Grace” at the Telluride Film Festival after Aretha Franklin, who is the subject of the documentary, filed a lawsuit on Friday to prevent its release.

U.S. District Judge John Kane granted the veteran singer's request for a temporary restraining order to stop the film from screening. The producers are effectively prohibited from screening the movie for 14 days, under the ruling.

Franklin reportedly testified in court by phone from Detroit. A spokeswoman for the festival said, the film "Sherpa" would be screened in its place tonight. Kane wrote in his court order that Franklin “has a high likelihood of success on the merits,” and referenced a 2008 document that “Amazing Grace" producer Alan Elliott obtained for the footage that reportedly states the need to get Franklin’s permission before it could be used.

In her lawsuit, Franklin claims that the 1972 footage, part of an unfinished film from the late Sydney Pollack, “was taken with the express understanding that it would not be used commercially without agreement and consent by Ms. Franklin.”

But Lincoln Bandlow, a partner at Fox Rothschild and an expert in copyright and First Amendment law, told The Wrap that he disagreed with the ruling. "If you’re going to use footage in a documentary about a person, you don’t need their permission because the First Amendment says so."

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