Dubbed by the late Whitney Houston as the “King of R&B”, Singer Bobby Brown filed a complaint against TVOne in federal court on September 7, 2017. TVOne produced a film about Brown’s daughter Bobbi Kristina, and Brown is ticked.
Court documents obtained by Gotham City Esquire claim that TVOne defames Brown and violates his right to privacy. Brown feels like the Bobbi Kristina biopic depicts him as an unloving father and abusive husband. Bobbi Kristina producers allegedly “knowingly and maliciously” used Brown’s persona in the film without his permission.
Bobby asks for an injunction to prevent TVOne from airing the movie. He also asks for $1,000,000 in damages.
Bobby Brown asks for an injunction to prevent the movie from airing.
Bobby Brown is asking the court to issue a permanent injunction. If granted, the injunction will permanently prevent TVOne from airing Bobbi Kristina.
Brown argues that TVOne producers are lying about Brown’s abusive nature and drug use. And maybe that argument works for some people, but Brown’s abusive nature and drug use are well documented.
Brown opened up to 20/20 about his life with Whitney Houston while promoting his memoir, Every Little Step, in 2016. Brown admits in Every Little Step that he and Houston used drugs together in front of Bobbi Kristina! In 2003, Brown also pled guilty to misdemeanor battery for hitting Houston.
Brown’s history is TVOne’s defense. TVOne can say “We’re not defaming Brown! We’re telling the truth!” And they have lots of evidence to back them up.
Bobby Brown might have a valid Right to Publicity claim.
New York Civil Rights Law sections 50 and 51 protect a person’s right to publicity. Right to publicity is your right to make money off your name or likeness. Companies must get your permission before they can use you (your image, name, or likeness) for commercial purposes. It sounds complicated, but it’s actually pretty simple:
Companies must have your permission before they can make money using your picture or name.
Brown claims that TVOne is using his name/image to advertise the video. He wants TVOne to pay because it didn’t get his permission first.
This claim may not be a slam dunk though.
New York State recognizes several exceptions to the right to publicity law and “newsworthiness” is one such exception.
The newsworthiness exception allows companies to use an image or name without permission if the use is newsworthy or of public interest. The court in Davis v. High Society Magazine holds that the First Amendment protects “newsworthy” uses of a person’s image.
I’m not sure if the court will find that TVOne’s use of Brown’s likeness is newsworthy or not. But I will tell you this: I wouldn’t feel bad about arguing for the newsworthiness exception in court. Bobbi Kristina’s death was major news. The public is still interested in the intimate details of her life in the years leading up to her death. This film claims to truthfully depict Bobbi Kristina’s final days. That sounds newsworthy!
Regardless of the court’s decision, this lawsuit had done way more to promote Bobbi Kristina than TVOne ever did. People that would not have otherwise known about the movie now do. If Bobby Brown wanted to protect his “image” he probably should have moved on with his life and pretended like the movie doesn’t exist.