Fugees Co-Founder Sues Showtime for Copyright Infringement

Pras Michel -2015 Sundance Film Festival-Getty-H 2016
Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Showtime has been playing the documentary Sweet Micky for President on cable and online without permission, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in California federal court that calls the situation "a classic David and Goliath case."

Pras Michel, co-founder of the hip-hop group Fugees and producer of the film, is suing Showtime Networks and Showtime Digital for copyright infringement.

"Despite multiple demands by Plaintiff to cease the unauthorized exploitation of the Sweet Micky Film, SHOWTIME has refused," states the complaint filed by Martin Singer on behalf of Michel. "Instead, SHOWTIME relies on a license agreement that was never signed by Plaintiff to justify its blatant copyright infringement."

The film's co-producer and director Ben Patterson is also named as a defendant in the suit. Michel claims he was in preliminary negotiations with Showtime to license Sweet Micky, and after making it clear he was the only person authorized to execute the deal and he didn't agree to the terms. Michel claims Patterson ignored his directives and signed the agreement anyway in March. Two weeks later, Patterson informed the network via email that he was not able to sign the agreement on behalf of the film and Michel's attorneys informed Showtime the agreement was void and unenforceable. 

Sweet Micky premiered on Showtime on April 21, and Michel estimates it has aired at least 15 times since then. He doesn't know how many times his documentary has been streamed by Showtime Digital customers. 

"With every unauthorized broadcast or streaming online of the Sweet Micky Film, the film is devalued even further and Plaintiff's opportunities to market and exploit the film to third parties are further diminished," Singer writes. 

Michel is seeking an injunction to stop Showtime from exploiting his documentary as well either the maximum statutory damages or actual damages and the profits defendants received from exploiting Sweet Micky.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, a Showtime representative says: “This suit is utterly without merit and we fully expect to prevail. Beyond that we have no comment.”

July 15, 3:30 p.m. Updated with a comment from Showtime.