Experience

Won emergency protection for Aretha Franklin in a highly publicized dispute involving the unauthorized use of the performer's name and image in the documentary "Amazing Grace."

Franklin v. National Film Preserve (D. Colo. 2015)

WTO attorney Reid Neureiter obtained a temporary restraining order protecting famed vocalist Aretha Franklin in an emergency hearing in federal court to prevent the Telluride Film Festival from screening a documentary comprised almost wholly of Ms. Franklin’s historic 1972 gospel performance at the New Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles.

The screening was scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 4. Neureiter received the phone call at 6:00 p.m. Thursday, September 3, and the complaint was filed electronically with the United States District Court for the District of Colorado at 1:00 a.m. In under 20 hours, Neureiter coordinated with Ms. Franklin’s Detroit lawyers, learned the history, compiled the relevant documents, developed his arguments, and prepared Ms. Franklin to give telephone testimony during the emergency hearing.  

At 3:00 pm Friday, U.S. District Court Judge John Kane heard arguments and granted the temporary restraining order. In issuing his ruling, Judge Kane observed that the film’s producer failed to abide by a clear contractual obligation requiring the producer to obtain permission from Ms. Franklin to use the concert footage. Judge Kane also cited testimony as “clearly show[ing] that immediate and irreparable injury and loss or damage will result to Ms. Franklin” from showing the film. He further agreed with WTO’s assessment of the likelihood that Franklin would prevail in her lawsuit to stop the movie’s producer from distributing the film.

The case received significant media attention from such outlets as The New York Times and The Hollywood Reporter

Called in the evening before the worldwide premier of the documentary film "Amazing Grace," which features a 1972 live gospel performance by Aretha Franklin, WTO obtained a temporary restraining order stopping the Telluride Film Festival from screening the film. The federal injunction protected the name and image rights of the famed vocalist.
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