NBA superstar LeBron James and rapper Drake are accused of stealing “intellectual property rights” to a film in a $10 million lawsuit filed by the former head of the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) Billy Hunter, according to reports.
The movie is “Black Ice” — about the old, segregated hockey league for black players in Canada. Based in part on Darril Fosty and George Fosty’s 2004 nonfiction book “Black Ice: The Lost History of the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, 1895-1925.” Hunter claims in the suit that he has the exclusive legal rights to produce any film based off the book and is seeking $10 million in damages and a share of profits from the film, scheduled for its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 10.
“While the defendants LeBron James, Drake and Maverick Carter are internationally known and renowned in their respective fields of basketball and music, it does not afford them the right to steal another’s intellectual property,” says the suit filed by Hunter’s attorney, Larry Hutcher.
George and Darril Fosty are also listed as defendants in the lawsuit, citing a breach of contract. The suit says Hunter paid the authors a total of $265,000 for the movie rights to the story. The brothers believe the lawsuit is frivolous and will respond trough their legal team.
“I don’t think they believed the property rights would be litigated. They thought I would go away. They gambled,” Hunter, 79, an NFL wide receiver in the 1960s, told The New York Post.
LeBron’s entertainment companies The Springhill Company and Uninterrupted Canada are also listed as defendants along with Dreamcrew Entertainment, Drake’s firm, and the Fostys’ publishing firm, Stryker Indigo and First Take Entertainment, a film production company.
If an agreement was made between Hunter and the Fostys and money exchanged hands, this suit has merit. It will likely come down to the exclusivity of rights as determined by whatever documents were signed and now interpreted by a judge.
Exclusive legal rights on the production of any film, if that is the case, means that the Fostys couldn’t have legally entered into an agreement with someone else unless the terms of the deal with Hunter provided an out clause.
Hunter served as the head of the NBPA from 1996-2013 and was unanimously voted out by the players, over nepotism in hiring and misappropriation of union funds.
While Derek Fisher was president of the union at this time, by 2013 LeBron was already considered the best player in the league and his power behind the scenes among players was increasing. Does Hunter blame LeBron for being part of the player mutiny? Is Hunter trying to settle an old score?
This lawsuit and Hunter being fired as head of the NBPA are not related. But it is an interesting coincidence that LeBron, an NBA superstar, happens to be a defendant. Of course it is likely nothing more than a coincidence.
But what are the chances that both Hunter and LeBron decided they wanted to secure the movie rights to this story?
Stay tuned to this developing story.
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