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Fight Over ‘Butler’ Naming Rights Continues With Angry Letter to Weinstein Co.

The fight over naming rights to Lee Daniels’ “The Butler” continues with an angry letter from Warner Bros. to the Weinstein Co.’s attorney David Boies.

In Thursday’s letter, Warner Bros. asserts that TWC is a voluntary member of the MPAA’s Title Registration Bureau, which oversees naming rights and rules for the film industry.

“Over the years, however, TWC and its principals have operated in the TRB process with breathtaking hypocrisy,” the letter states. “They have used the TRB rules and procedures to extract concessions from, and initiate arbitration against, other subscriber companies in order to advance TWC’s own interests.”

The letter goes on to claim that TWC has used TRB’s rules to win arbitration against Phoenix Pictures and New Line over naming rights to “Got to be You” and “Curse of the Mask,” respectively.

The Weinstein Co. could not be reached for comment. Warner Bros. declined to comment.

On Tuesday, Warner Bros. won an MPAA ruling that declared that TWC violated WB’s title rights to “The Butler” due to the latter’s 1916 comedy by the same name. On Wednesday, Boies sent letters to both WB and the MPAA warning that he would file an appeal and seek an injunction against the ruling.

Daniels himself had made a personal appeal to Warner Bros. to keep the film’s title. The director received a private response from Kevin Tsujihara, according to a source close to the situation.

“The Butler,” starring Forest Whitaker and Oprah Winfrey, tells the true story of African American butler Eugene Allen, who worked in the White House during eight presidencies throughout the civil rights era.

 

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