Money Matters - Simplified

Use of song in 'documentary' draws lawsuit

Los Angeles -- A federal court in Los Angeles may end up deciding whether the movie "Catfish," which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, is an authentic documentary.

Threshold Media filed a lawsuit Friday, charging the makers of "Catfish" with copyright infringement, the Los Angeles Times reports. Threshold owns Spin Move Records and thus the rights to "All Downhill From Here" by singer-songwriter Amy Kuney.

The song plays a critical role in the film even though only 18 seconds are heard. The movie is about Nev Schulman, a New York photographer in an online relationship with someone he thinks is a young, sexy model. He begins to have doubts when he searches YouTube and learns the song, sent him by his online girlfriend, is actually sung by Kuney. He goes on to find out the person with whom he has been communicating is actually a middle-age woman.

Threshold says if "Catfish" is actually a fictional movie it does not have the cover of the "fair use" doctrine. The makers would need permission to use it -- and might have to pay handsomely for the privilege.

"I don't think it's a legitimate documentary because they're filming a movie about themselves and there was no public interest in this," said Neville Johnson, a Threshold lawyer.

Copyright 2010 United Press International

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