×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Bobby Brown Files Lawsuit Against Showtime and BBC Over Whitney Houston Documentary

Attorneys for Bobby Brown and the estate of Bobbi Kristina Brown have filed suit in a New York court over the documentary “Whitney: Can I Be Me,” alleging that Showtime, the BBC and several other defendants violated their rights by improperly using footage from the production of the 2005 reality series “Being Bobby Brown.”

Brown’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court’s New York southern district, asks for $2 million from defendants Passion Pictures, Tracey Baker-Simmons, Wanda Shelley, B2 Entertainment and Simmons Shelley Entertainment, as well as Showtime and the BBC.

The suit claims that Brown and his late daughter appear in the documentary for more than 30 minutes despite never having signed releases for the footage. Contracts or releases they did sign for the filming of the lone season of Bravo’s “Being Bobby Brown” in 2005 didn’t carry over for any other usage, the claim maintains.

“The footage was actually recorded prior to the divorce in 2007 between Brown and Houston,” reads the document. “Brown never signed or executed a release for the airing of the material that appears in the film. The footage of Brown is approximately fifteen (15) years old… Assuming that Plaintiff(s) have proper title to the footage, they do not have proper title to its contents.”

The film’s co-directors, Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal, are not named as defendants, although the suit does include as an attachment a 2016 letter from Broomfield to Browns representatives trying to obtain a fresh interview for the documentary. “I am particularly keen to do a positive piece that explains the life of Whitney in a loving and enlightening way,” Broomfield wrote in the letter. “We have a huge respect for Bobby Brown, his work as an artist and his achievements. We’re of the firm belief that he has been judged very hard and would like to see this as an opportunity for him to tell his story from the heart. We can assure you we have no agenda and come in good faith.”

“Whitney: Can I Be Me” premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2017 — something the lawsuit suggests was an attempt to get positive publicity for the film before Brown’s representatives could object — and first aired on Showtime in August of that year. The doc has an 86 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman described it as “the rare Nick Broomfield movie in which the filmmaker isn’t center stage… ‘Whitney: Can I Be Me’ has no conspiracies to uncover. It just has a story to tell, and it does that incredibly compellingly… It makes you want to reach right into the screen and tell Whitney Houston to draw herself back from the abyss, to find the thing she gave to so many others: the greatest love of all.”

The lawsuit also attaches a 2015 letter from producer Baker-Simmons to Brown’s reps, referencing “the co-production agreement which outlines the talent fee for Bobby for the ‘Being Bobby Brown’ series,” the inference being that Brown signed away his rights to the footage under a contract at that time.

According to the suit, “As B2 (the company that helped create the Bravo series) was dissolved before 2009, SSE, Shelley or Simmons had no rights to the ‘Being Bobby Brown’ footage and had no rights to license or assign the footage to the other Defendants.”

Showtime was not immediately available for comment on Brown’s suit.

 

More TV

  • SAG Awards Placeholder

    SAG Award Nominations (Updating Live)

    Awkwafina and Laverne Cox announced the nominations for the 25th Annual SAG Awards on Wednesday morning. TNT, TBS, and truTV aired the announcement live from the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, Calif., beginning at 10 a.m. ET/PT. SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris introduced the presenters, who revealed nominations for acting in television and film. Prior to [...]

  • European Union Competition Commissioner Margrethe VestagerSlush

    Liberty Global, Vodafone's $22 Billion Cable Deal Under Investigation by EU

    The European Commission has started an in-depth probe into Vodafone’s proposed acquisition of a raft of Liberty Global assets in Europe. The commission cited concerns that the deal could reduce competition in Germany and the Czech Republic. “It’s important that all EU consumers have access to affordable and good quality telephone and TV services,” Commissioner [...]

  • SAG Awards Placeholder

    How to Watch the SAG Awards Nominations Live

    Awkwafina and Laverne Cox will announce the nominees for the 25th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards on Wednesday at the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, Calif. Beginning 10 a.m. ET/PT, the nominations will be carried live on TNT, TBS, and truTV. SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris will introduce Awkwafina and Cox. Prior to that announcement, SAG Awards [...]

  • CBS News' chief White House correspondent

    Major Garrett Named Chief Washington Correspondent for CBS News

    CBS News has promoted Major Garrett to the post of Chief Washington Correspondent. A veteran journo, Garrett has served as Chief White House Correspondent since joining CBS News in 2012. With the promotion, Garrett will expand his beat to a wider range of stories coming out of Washington as well as the 2020 presidential election [...]

  • SF Studios Acquires Norwegian Production Company

    SF Studios Acquires Norwegian Production Company Paradox

    SF Studios has acquired Paradox, the well-established Scandinavian company behind Erik Poppe’s “U-July 22,” to launch Norwegian production operations. SF Studios, which will be celebrating its centenary next year, has up until now focused on the production of feature films and drama series in Sweden and Denmark. The company also boasts distribution operations in Norway [...]

  • Hulu Picks Up Anna Friel Drama

    Hulu Picks Up Anna Friel Drama ‘Butterfly’

    Hulu has snagged U.S. rights to “Butterfly,” the family drama about separated parents who disagree over how to deal with their youngest child, Max, who was born a boy but identifies as a girl. The series was commissioned by ITV in the U.K. “Marcella” star Anna Friel plays Max’s mother, Vicky, and Emmett J. Scanlon [...]

  • Rupert Murdoch

    BBC Orders Documentary Series on Rupert Murdoch’s Print Empire

    The BBC has ordered “A Tabloid Empire,” a three-part documentary series on Rupert Murdoch’s influence over the British press. The series will air on BBC Two in the U.K. and examine in detail Britain’s popular press between 1997 and 2012, a period that covers phone hacking and corruption but that also saw Murdoch’s and other [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content