Whitney Houston is remembered as one of the most talented and dynamic performers of all time, and Showtime and the BBC celebrated her life with a documentary called Whitney: Can I Be Me that aired back in 2017. Although the documentary was received well by audiences, Houston's former husband Bobby Brown wasn't too happy about it, and he's now suing both Showtime and the BBC.
According a lawsuit filed by attorneys for Bobby Brown and the estate of Bobbi Kristina Brown, Whitney: Can I Be Me violated their rights with the use of footage without permission. Bobby Brown and his late daughter with Whitney Houston were both featured in the documentary for more than half an hour via footage from Being Bobby Brown.
Being Bobby Brown was a reality show that aired for one season on Bravo back in 2005, showcasing Bobby Brown, Whitney Houston, and their daughter. Variety reports that Brown claims he never agreed for footage from the show of him or his daughter to be featured in the Showtime/BBC documentary.
One might think that releases signed for the production of Being Bobby Brown would entitle outside parties to use the footage without the explicit permission of the subjects, but the lawsuit claims that this is not the case. The lawsuit is looking for $2 million from Showtime, the BBC, and a number of other defendants. Interestingly, Whitney: Can I Be Me co-directors Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal are not listed among the defendants.
The suit states that the company that helped create Being Bobby Brown, called B2, was actually dissolved following the show's airing on Bravo, meaning that certain of the defendants had no rights to the footage and therefore could not have licensed it to Showtime and BBC for the purposes of the documentary.
The co-directors did reach out to Bobby Brown back in 2016 in the hopes of bringing him in front of a camera for a new interview to be included in Whitney: Can I Be Me. That did not happen, despite Nick Broomfield's assurances that the interview was "an opportunity for him to tell his story from the heart," as the goal was to create "a positive piece that explains the life of Whitney in a loving and enlightening way."
Whitney: Can I Be Me debuted back in April 2017 with a premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. While that may have seemed like a natural time to release a documentary that was bound the generate buzz, the lawsuit alleges that the April premiere at Tribeca happened because the defendants wanted to generate positive buzz months before the Showtime debut in August and before Bobby Brown's attorneys could protest.
We'll have to wait and see if Bobby Brown's lawsuit is successful. Whitney: Can I Be Me is far from the only Whitney Houston-based documentary produced in the wake of her death back in 2012, and a documentary released earlier in 2018 alleged that Houston was molested as a child, although the sister of the accused molester doesn't believe the allegations. Only time will tell what comes next with regard to the legacy of Whitney Houston.