FX Networks Defeats De Havilland Lawsuit Over `Feud' Biopic

(Bloomberg) -- FX Networks defeated a lawsuit by Dame Olivia de Havilland over her depiction last year in a docudrama about the feud between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford.

A California state appeals court on Monday said the 21st Century Fox Inc. unit didn’t need permission from the 101-year-old actress to include her in the TV series, and overturned the decision of a Los Angeles judge who had let her lawsuit proceed.

"Books, films, plays, and television shows often portray real people," the appellate court said. "Whether a person portrayed in one of these expressive works is a world-renowned film star, ‘a living legend,’ or a person no one knows, she or he does not own history."

The major movie studios and Netflix Inc. had closed ranks in their support of FX Networks’ bid to overturn the Sept. 29 ruling, saying it “threatens to doom entire genres of fact-based motion pictures, including docudramas and biopics.”

The court of appeals also threw out de Havilland’s "false light" claims over her character’s portrayal in “Feud" as a gossip who uses vulgar language.

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