Judge Halts Aretha Franklin Doc Release But Negotiations Continue

The injunction is not intended to kill the documentary, but to save time, money and court resources while Franklin and 'Amazing Grace' producer Alan Elliot come to terms on a deal.
Courtesy of Liquid Soul

The Amazing Grace documentary featuring 1972 concert footage of music icon Aretha Franklin can't be screened or released without the singer's permission, according to an injunction issued Monday. 

The late Sydney Pollack shot much of the footage from Franklin’s performance at the New Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles and, according to court documents, "the footage was taken with the express understanding that it would not be used commercially without agreement and consent by Ms. Franklin."

Franklin requested an emergency injunction in September that stopped screenings of the film at the Telluride Film Festival, claiming that 80 percent of the film features her and her performance.  

"Allowing the film to be shown violates Ms. Franklin’s contractual rights, her intellectual property rights, her rights to use and control her name and likeness, and represents an invasion of her privacy," states Franklin's original complaint.

The court agreed, granting the temporary restraining order which it is now making permanent. 

"Absent further order of the Court or specific written authorization from Ms. Aretha Franklin, Defendant Alan Elliott, his agents, employees and all working in concert with the Defendant, shall not publicly show, screen, project, display or otherwise release the film Amazing Grace, or the 1972 concert footage," writes senior U.S. district judge John L. Kane in the decision issued Monday. 

Elliott’s attorney Lincoln Bandlow says this absolutely does not mean the film won’t be released.

“This is in furtherance of the parties’ efforts over the last few months to get a deal done so the world can see this great film,” Bandlow said.  

Since September, according to the motion, the parties have been engaged in extensive negotiations. This injunction is not intended to kill the documentary, but to save time, money and court resources while Franklin and Elliott come to terms on a deal.

"Unfortunately, given the complexity of the negotiations and the multiple parties involved (including persons or entities not involved in this litigation), there is, at present, no assurance that a final resolution will be reached in the near term," the joint motion states. "The Parties are optimistic that the stars will eventually align, but cannot in good conscience represent to the Court that there will be a final resolution in an additional 30 or even 60 days."

Franklin's attorney N. Reid Neureiter says the pleadings speak for themselves and declined further comment. 

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