Whitney Houston’s ex-husband, Bobby Brown, and the estate of their daughter, Bobbi Kristina Brown, are suing the BBC and Showtime Networks over allegedly unauthorised use of footage in a 2017 documentary about the late singer.
Bobby Brown, the R&B singer formerly of New Edition, and the estate of Bobbi Kristina Brown never consented to the airing of footage used in the Nick Broomfield documentary Whitney: Can I Be Me, according to a complaint filed on Wednesday with the US district court in Manhattan.
The plaintiffs said the material was approximately 15 years old, predating Bobby Brown’s 2007 divorce from Houston and her death in 2012, and claimed that its unauthorised use had harmed Brown, his business and Bobbi Kristina Brown’s estate.
“Every person should have the right to control how their identity or likeness or personality, or voice, name or image is commercialised by others,” the complaint said.
Whitney: Can I Be Me premiered in August 2017 on Showtime, a subsidiary of CBS, and the BBC has aired it in the UK. It draws on interviews with Houston’s friends and acquaintances, as well as archival footage.
Showtime declined to comment and the BBC did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Brown’s lawyer, Christopher Brown, did not immediately respond to similar requests.
The plaintiffs are seeking at least $2m (£1.6m) for false advertising and violations of their rights of publicity, and an injunction against the documentary’s distribution. Unspecified punitive damages also are being sought. Several other defendants were also sued.
Whitney Houston obituary
The documentary focuses on Houston’s mid-career struggles, which came long after she shot to stardom with hits in the mid-1980s such as How Will I Know, The Greatest Love of All, I Wanna Dance With Somebody, and 1992’s I Will Always Love You.
Houston was 48 when she drowned in a hotel bathtub, with heart disease and cocaine use found to be contributing factors.
Bobbi Kristina Brown died aged 22 in 2015 of pneumonia after nearly six months in a coma.