On Monday, Carole Baskin and her husband sued Netflix for using footage of her in the upcoming “Tiger King 2” series. What was particularly interesting about this lawsuit is that the Baskins also asked the court for injunctive relief.
The Baskins argued in their suit that there could be immediate and irreparable harm to them if Netflix were not enjoined (basically, stopped) from releasing the five-part Tiger King 2 series on November 17th. It took the court only a few hours to deny the Baskins their request for an injunction, noting that there is no special legal remedy needed here because there is no immediate harm to them if Netflix moves forward. The Baskins can proceed with a lawsuit but will not be granted an emergency order restraining Netflix from releasing the series.
Earlier in the day, Variety reported that the suit alleges breach of contract by Netflix in continuing to use footage of her and her husband in Tiger King 2, since they only signed limited appearance release forms valid only for the first documentary.
Attorney Adam Birkhold points out that:
“Contractual rights can be for a limited period of time. If the appearance release forms in issue were only for one documentary, there is no implied right to be able to use that footage in follow-on documentaries. The content that was contractually agreed to be used in a limited scope can’t be used in other ways.”
In other words, as the court indicated in the decision denying the injunction, if the Baskins were in fact harmed by Netflix using the footage, we look to contract law and the courts for monetary damages.
Issues such as these can quickly derail a production. The real king for documentary filmmakers is content and without the legal ability to use content they need to make their films, they end up producing subpar films.
Netflix can certainly offer to settle the case by offering additional payment in exchange for a new content release for this second and any future installment of the series. While this would compensate Carole Baskin and her husband for the use of their content, there may be other reasons we are currently unaware of as to why they did not want to take part in the continuation of the Netflix series.
Also according to a report last month in Variety, this may be the case here. Not long after news profile of the Tiger King sequel, Carole Baskin told Variety:
“I wouldn’t call Eric Goode or Rebecca Chaiklin true documentarians. I mean that was just a reality show dumpster fire.”
While this was widely reported, there may also be an element of posturing here. When a personal story becomes popular through a platform such as Netflix, the people to whom the story belongs realize that there might be significant commercial value in a more personal and intimate first-person retelling, rather than further licensing of their name, image, and content to a third party. It’s not uncommon for a dispute to emerge around someone else not telling the story you were involved in as passionately and skillfully as you could tell it yourself.
Fans of the Tiger King saga have their collective fingers (and paws) crossed that the Baskins and Netflix can reach a resolution that would see the Baskins become active Tiger King participants not only in any future productions, but in the hype that will surround the release of the new series this month.
Whenever a lawsuit on a contractual claim is filed on a production such as this, it only fuels talk about the series and makes it potentially even more popular that the filmmakers and producers expected it to be – which of course raises the stakes of the lawsuit.
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Aron Solomon, JD, is the Chief Legal Analyst for Esquire Digital and the Editor of Today’s Esquire. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Aron has been featured in CBS News, USA Today, ESPN, TechCrunch, The Hill, BuzzFeed, Fortune, Venture Beat, The Independent, Yahoo!, ABA Journal, Law.com, The Boston Globe, and many other leading publications.