TIFF, Aretha Franklin and Jurisdiction in Breach of Contract Cases

A recent case that involves a legendary Motown artist, a Toronto screening and the rights to a documentary film illustrates some of the complexities that can be involved in a breach of contract lawsuit.

The Background

At the heart of the breach of contract lawsuit lies a documentary film called Amazing Grace and the footage it includes of a gospel concert performed by Ms Franklin in 1972. Shot by Sydney Pollack and produced by Allan Elliott, the film was to premiere at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado in September. It was then to have a screening for movie industry executives in Toronto during TIFF later that month – an all-important screening that would determine its distribution.

But, Ms Franklin has applied for – and was granted – a temporary restraining order against both the producers and the film festival on the premise that the producers needed her permission to use the footage. The two sides came to an agreement and agreed to a 30-day injunction on screening the film so the courts have time to consider Ms Franklin’s claim for a reported $1 million in compensation.

The Toronto connection comes in the form of an amended claim where,

  • The film festival was dropped from the suit;
  • The Toronto screening was added to amended suit in the form of a breach of contract claim.

In an unusual move, the singer has added a request for a declaratory judgment that anyone associated with the film requires her permission prior to any public screening.

Another unusual move: since the amended claim specifically mentions the Toronto screening, you might imagine that the suit should proceed in a Toronto court. However, the singer added the breach of contract claim to the lawsuit already filed in Colorado.

It illustrates an important point: jurisdiction can be a problematic matter.

Your Employment Contract

You may not be involved in any high level film deals but the important lesson to be learned is that when a contract involves parties who live in or do business in different countries, the issue of jurisdiction can get complicated. Nowadays, more and more workers are involved in contractual arrangements and growing numbers work from home or a remote location for a company that could be located anywhere in the world.

Where does that leave you in the event of a contractual dispute?

The best time to call a lawyer about your employment or any other contractual arrangement is before you sign on the dotted line. Our team of experienced breach of contract lawyers can advise you on all of the relevant issues regarding your contract.

If you are already working under a contract and issues have come up, don’t hesitate – you need expert legal advice. You’ll need the help of experienced breach of contract lawyers.  If you think your rights under a contractual agreement are being disregarded contact Petrillo Law today or call us (905) 949-9433 for a free consultation with an experienced contract lawyer.  We look forward to hearing from you.

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