Brown Rudnick Represents Cher and Her Oscar-Nominated Documentary in Supreme Court of Virginia Victory
PUBLISHED ON: 07/01/2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – July 1, 2019 – On June 17, 2019, the Supreme Court of Virginia affirmed Circuit Court for the City of Alexandria Judge James C. Clark’s ruling for Patricia Barber v. Kartemquin Films, Ltd., an action filed against the Oscar nominated documentary Edith + Eddie and its executive producer Cher alleging unauthorized use of name or picture of any person. The Court held that the film fell within the newsworthiness exception to the statute. Brown Rudnick represented Kartemquin Films, Ltd. and Cher in the victory.
“We are very pleased the Supreme Court of Virginia upheld Judge Clark’s ruling,” said Benjamin Chew, partner at Brown Rudnick and lead counsel for the defendant and appellee, Cher. “The documentary tells a remarkable story and we are gratified the Court took the time to review and appreciate the value of that story as it pertains to this case.”
The case began in April 2018 following an action filed in the Circuit Court for the City of Alexandria by Patricia Barber, the daughter of the inspiration behind the Edith + Eddie documentary Edith Hill, alleging violation of Va. Code Section 8.01-40 right of publicity, injunctive relief and conspiracy. Barber sought punitive damages claiming that the producers and executive producer Cher used her name and likeness in the film without her consent and portrayed her in a negative light. Brown Rudnick then filed a demurrer on the grounds that the documentary fell within the newsworthiness exception to the statute.
On August 8, 2018, Judge Clark sustained Brown Rudnick’s demurrer and that of the other defendants and dismissed the case, agreeing that the film fit within the newsworthiness exception and was otherwise protected by the First Amendment.
Barber’s petition for appeal was denied by the Supreme Court of Virginia on June 17, 2019 and the Court affirmed Judge Clark’s ruling.
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