Tags: Butler | Weinstein | Warner | MPAA

Legal Battle Over DC Film 'The Butler'

Monday, 22 Jul 2013 10:20 AM

By James Hirsen

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Harvey Weinstein has been engaged in a legal and public relations battle with Warner Bros. and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) over the title of his soon-to-be-released film, which has been marketed as “The Butler.”
Weinstein’s movie factory, The Weinstein Co., has basically been involved in a full-scale war with Warner Bros. over use of the movie title, which is also the name of a Warner-owned short film from the silent era.
The movie mogul has been known to bring on big-name lawyers in his business disputes, having hired in the past Alan Dershowitz (who defended Claus von Bulow) and William Kunstler (who defended the Chicago Seven) to represent his company in conflicts over ratings issues.
Weinstein, who incidentally served as an Obama campaign bundler, has turned to former Al Gore lawyer David Boies and industry mainstay Bert Fields this time around to represent the Weinstein Co. in “The Butler” case.
Boies penned a letter to Warner Bros., which ratcheted up the rhetoric by using race as part of his case.
“. . . none of this controversy would have occurred if Warner Bros. had not repudiated its representations and agreements not to object to ‘The Butler’ in a transparent attempt to hold a major civil rights film hostage to extort unrelated concessions from TWC, [The Weinstein Co.],” Boies wrote.
Boies’s language essentially exploits the particular historical focus of the film, which centers on an African-American man who witnesses a number of significant events of the 20th century during his engagement as a White House butler. The story is based on the real-life experience of Eugene Allen, who served as a White House butler through eight American presidencies.
In addition to Boies, the Weinstein Co. called in a young woman from Michigan who helped in The Weinstein Co.’s clash over the R-rating for the documentary “Bully.” Ironically, TWC’s teen ally is named Katy Butler.
Weinstein has been known to advocate left-wing politics and in the current movie-related situation appears to be using some weapons that are right out of the liberal arsenal. He has recruited several civil rights leaders to exert pressure on Warner Bros.
Just as a major legal determination was about to be made by an arbitration panel, Weinstein arranged for Rev. Jesse Jackson, NAACP president and CEO Ben Jealous, and national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality Roy Innis to do some additional arm twisting in order to assist Weinstein in the title dispute.
“We are all watching and waiting for the results of today's arbitration and hoping that Warner Bros. and the MPAA make the right decision on this important movie about civil rights,” all three activists said in a statement.
So far, Weinstein’s over-the-top tactics have failed. At a recent final MPAA hearing, he lost his bid to use “The Butler” as the movie title, and The Weinstein Co. was assessed $400,000 in fines. The film will now reportedly be marketed as “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.”
Weinstein was actually on the other side of a film title dispute about a decade ago, when he asserted a claim on the title “The Passion,” based on a title registration with the MPAA for a 1987 novel of the same name.
Mel Gibson had originally planned on using “The Passion” title for a movie that he was producing and directing, a film that ultimately went on to experience huge box-office success under a new name, “The Passion of the Christ.”
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.

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