Tuesday 16 January 2018

Legal battle for The Butler title

Forest Whitaker is one of the stars of Lee Daniels' The Butler, which may now have to change its name
Forest Whitaker is one of the stars of Lee Daniels' The Butler, which may now have to change its name

The Weinstein Company is locked in a legal battle with Warner Bros for the rights to use the title The Butler for Lee Daniels new film.

The Precious director's historical drama, starring Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo, is based on the true story of one man's tenure as butler at The White House during the terms of eight presidents.

Warner Bros wants to block the film from being called The Butler, claiming it has rights to the title because of a 1917 silent comedy short called The Butler, which was produced and released by other companies but is now owned by the Warner Bros library.

Warner Bros has just been awarded the rights by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA)'s Title Registration Bureau, but The Weinstein Company (TWC) has already filed an appeal.

It is alleged Warner Bros' fight for the title has been motivated by TWC's recent challenge to the Warner Bros film The Good Lie, claiming it is too similar to TWC's The Good Life.

TWC's lawyer David Boies told Deadline Warner Bros has fought for the rights to The Butler in the hope of reaching an agreement over the other film title.

He said in a statement: "The suggestion that there is a danger of confusion between TWC's 2013 feature movie and a 1917 short that has not been shown in theatres, television, DVDs, or in any other way for almost a century makes no sense. The award has no purpose except to restrict competition and is contrary to public policy."

Lee Daniels film has been in production since 2010, under the title The Butler.

Press Association

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