Sony Music sues Whitney Houston biopic producers

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A lawsuit has been filed against the producers of Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance With Somebody, a 2022 biopic, alleging that they failed to pay for the usage of over 20 of Houston’s songs in the movie.

Billboard reports that the lawsuit, which names Anthem Films and Black Label Media among other media businesses engaged in the film directed by Kasi Lemmons, was filed in federal court in New York on Thursday.

The primary actress in the movie, Naomi Ackie, lip-synced to the late singer’s records a lot. In order to use Houston’s classics in the movie, such as “The Greatest Love of All,” “I Will Always Love You,” and “I’m Every Woman,” the production entities negotiated sync license deals. But Sony Music says they haven’t been paid in more than a year after the movie’s release.

“To date, Anthem has not paid the fees, or any portion of the fees, due under the agreements,” Sony Music lawyer, Christine Lepera of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp, wrote in the legal complaint.

Less than two weeks before the movie’s theatrical release, on December 5, 2022, the aforementioned companies supposedly inked a sync license agreement.

“Unlike other types of films, musical biopics by their nature require use of the subject musician’s music, as it is nearly impossible to explain the importance of a musician’s creative genius or unique style and talent without the use of the musician’s music,” Sony Music stated.

“Aware of the need for authorization to use Plaintiffs’ sound recordings in order to produce a biopic about the life and music of Whitney Houston, and aware of the value of plaintiffs’ catalog, Anthem entered into a license agreement.”

When Sony contacted Anthem regarding the past-due payment, the firm allegedly stated that they were awaiting the issuance of a tax credit that the state of Massachusetts owed. The postponement, however, led to “failure to pay the fees to SME.”

Anthem Films, NYBO Productions LLC, Black Label Media, and its offspring, WH Movie LLC, are all named as co-defendants in the complaint.

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