Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Home Entertainment Sue Horse-Racing Announcer’s Estate Seeking Declaratory Judgment on Right of Privacy/Copyright Claims Over Secretariat
Walt Disney Pictures and Buena Vista Home Entertainment filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York on Friday, June 29, requesting declaratory judgment against family members of the late horse-racing announcer Charles Anderson. The companies are seeking to pro-actively guard against the estate’s right of publicity and copyright claims related to the 2010 film Secretariat.
According to the complaint, Anderson’s widow, daughters, and sons have spent the past two years asserting multiple bases of liability for what they claim was an unauthorized use of Anderson’s voice in both the motion picture and the additional bonus materials. Anderson’s family members contend that Secretariat included depictions of races originally called by Anderson, and that the DVD and Blu-Ray releases of the movie include video clips of horse races from the 1970s containing recordings of Anderson’s original calls. They are demanding payment for the unauthorized use of these materials under right of publicity and copyright laws.
In their complaint, Disney and Buena Vista first assert that Anderson’s voice was not used in Secretariat. Further, they argue the defendants do not have a claim under right of publicity because Anderson’s persona was not used in the theatrical, on-demand, or home entertainment releases of the film. Additionally, Anderson died before the releases occurred, which would “extinguish any rights which may have existed.”
As to the historical video clip copyright claim, Disney and Buena Vista note that the clips were properly used under a licensed copyright from owner CBS Broadcasting, and Anderson’s services were through a work-for-hire agreement. Therefore, Anderson’s family has no copyright claim.
Finally, the companies state that Anderson’s estate is unable to bring any other claims due to the First Amendment protections afforded to Secretariat as an expressive work.
Anderson’s family members have not publicly commented on these claims or the Disney/Buena Vista suit against them.