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Beyond the Baseline

USTA sues makers of Venus and Serena documentary

Venus and Serena Williams met in an exhibition match at the end of a less-than-ideal year for both. (Luis Benavides/AP) Venus and Serena Williams met in an exhibition match at the end of 2011, a less-than-ideal year for both. (Luis Benavides/AP)

The USTA has filed a lawsuit against the makers of Venus and Serena, the documentary by Maiken Baird and Michelle Major. The documentary chronicles the Williams' tumultuous 2011 season, beginning with the sisters struggling with injury and illness, and ending with Serena's infamous tirade against the chair umpire during her U.S. Open final loss to Sam Stosur.

In the papers filed in federal court on Friday, the USTA makes a claim for copyright infringement, alleging the filmmakers used footage from the 2011 U.S. Open without its written consent. According to The New York Times, the USTA also alleges that Baird and Major used four times more footage than the USTA would have OK'd in an agreement.

NGUYEN: A review of Venus and Serena

Perhaps the most interesting statement in the complaint is the USTA's claim that the footage used was "not in the best interest of the sport." The footage in question, which is widely available on YouTube, shows Serena being called for a hindrance, and then being issued a point penalty for shouting "Come on!" before the end of the point against Stosur. Serena proceeded to yell at the chair umpire.

"Are you the one who screwed me over the last time here?" Serena asked, referring to her tirade against a line umpire in 2010 after being called for a foot fault in her quarterfinal against Kim Clijsters. Serena continued her ranting monologue during the change of ends, uttering the now famous insult, "You're ugly on the inside."

Baird and Major dismissed the allegations. “In trying to censor this film about the Williams sisters,” they told The New York Times, “the U.S.T.A. is simply making up an agreement that never existed -- we shot footage at the U.S. Open with the U.S.T.A.’s permission and of course never agreed to pay them for our own work.”
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