LeBron James and Drake sued for $10 million over ‘Black Ice’ hockey movie rights

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Hoops star LeBron James and rappers Drake and Future are accused in a new $10 million lawsuit of stealing the ‘intellectual property rights’ to a movie – ‘Black Ice’ – about the former League of Separate hockey for black players in Canada, The Post has learned.

Billy Hunter, a former longtime NBA Players Association head and former federal prosecutor, is seeking a share of the documentary’s profits along with $10 million in damages, in a bombshell lawsuit filed in the State Supreme Court of Manhattan which claims it has exclusive legal rights to produce any film about the Colored Hockey League that existed from 1895 to the 1930s.

“While the defendants LeBron James, Drake and Maverick Carter [LeBron’s business partner] are internationally known and recognized in their respective fields of basketball and music, this does not give them the right to steal the intellectual property of others,” the lawsuit filed by Hunter’s attorney, Larry Hutcher, states.

In the lawsuit, Hunter accuses defendants who include four-time NBA champion and MVP James and the ‘Nice for What’ singer and Canadian Drake and their entertainment companies of making a deal behind his back with the authors of the acclaimed book. by critics that the documentary is based on – “Black Ice: The Lost History of the Maritime Colored Hockey League, 1895 to 1925.”

Billy Hunter alleges that he owns the exclusive legal rights to produce any film about the Colored Hockey League that existed from 1895 through the 1930s.
Seth Wenig/AP

Writers George and Darril Fosty are also listed as defendants, citing breach of contract for allegedly breaching the deal giving Hunter the right to produce a black hockey league movie and instead entering into a side deal with Team LeBron and Drake.

The lawsuit says Hunter paid the authors a total of $265,000 for the movie rights to the story.

The documentary, directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Hubert Davis, premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10.

“I don’t think they believed the property rights would be challenged. They thought I would leave. They played,” Hunter, 79, who also briefly played professional football in the 1960s, told The Post.

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“Black Ice” follows the history of the former segregated hockey league for black players in Canada.
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LeBron and Drake.
Billy Hunter accuses LeBron James and Drake of making a deal behind his back with the authors of the critically acclaimed book on which the documentary is based.
George Pimentel/Getty Images

In a possible pun, Hunter’s attorney Hutcher said it was “very ironic” that James and Drake, who “cherish their brands”, are “so cavalier” that they infringe Hunter’s film rights. someone else. James started his career with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers.

A longtime civil rights activist, Hunter, who is black, said he was fascinated by the history of the black-only professional hockey league, recalling the segregated black professional baseball league in the United States and the civil rights push to break the color barrier. . Hockey is Canada’s national sport.

“I just said, ‘Wow. This must be a movie,'” he said.

The lawsuit also lists James’ entertainment companies – The Springhill Company and Uninterrupted Canada – as defendants along with Dreamcrew Entertainment, the entertainment company of Drake, whose birth name is Aubrey Graham, and Future (legal name Adel Nur), and the Fostys edition. company, Stryker Indigo and First Take Entertainment, a film production company.

“Black Ice,” directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Hubert Davis, premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10.
unbroken canada

The complaint alleges that when Hunter confronted the authors after hearing about the separate ‘Black Ice’ movie deal with James and Drake, the Fostys ‘specifically asserted’ that the ‘competing company’ had not violated its “exclusive worldwide license” or movie rights because the “documentary” was different and did not violate the agreement.

“A documentary remains a ‘film’ and an ‘audiovisual adaptation’ and
any assertion to the contrary is absurd and made in bad faith,” Hutcher said in the Hunter lawsuit.

Hunter and the Fostys have reached an “option agreement” for a film adaptation
from the “Black Ice” story on March 25, 2019. He deposited $10,000.

Billy Hunter.
The lawsuit says Billy Hunter paid the writers a total of $265,000 for the movie rights to the story.
Marie Altaffer/AP

About 18 months later, in October 2020, Hunter received a phone call from
George Fosty, who told him that the authors had been approached by other
producers who wanted to make a documentary based on the book “Black Ice” – Vinamy Virmani and Scott Moore of First Entertainment.

Representatives for First Entertainment said in a Zoom call that they were working with James and his company Springhill to secure the production rights to a “Black Ice” documentary and had received partial funding from the Canadian Film Fund for the project.

But Hunter “has stated unequivocally that this is a passion project of his and that he has no interest in selling his exclusive option or any part of his rights” to anyone else, according to the lawsuit.

Hunter, through his lawyer, then sent a breach of contract letter to the defendants on November 1, 2021, after seeing an article in the Canadian press that Drake would be the executive producer of the documentary “Black Ice”.

Drake and Lebron.
Authors George and Darril Fosty argue that the Drake and LeBron James documentary does not violate the film adaptation agreement with Billy Hunter.
Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images

He also paid $250,000 to the Fostys in February 2022 to retain “exclusive worldwide rights” to any “audio-visual” adaptation of the “Black Ice” story.

The Hunter lawsuit accuses the Fostys and their publishing company of breach of contract and the James and Drake teams of “tortious interference”.

The lawsuit says the “continuing defendants” – Team LeBron – offered the Fostys $100,000 to acquire the “already optional” rights to produce a documentary about the “Black Ice” story and agreed to pay the authors 3 % of total film budget.

“The Continuing Defendants paid these sums to induce the perpetrators to violate
their agreement with the plaintiff,” the Hunter lawsuit alleges.

Court documents indicate that the James team then sought the support of additional investors, in particular Dreamcrew Entertainment, which is a joint venture between Drake and Future.

“The acts of the Dreamcrew Defendants and the Unbroken Defendants were and are
intentional and carried out for the purpose of disturbing the plaintiff’s legal rights. Each of the Dreamcrew Defendants and the Unbroken Defendants acted maliciously, as evidenced by the inflated price they paid for the duplication option,” the Hunter lawsuit alleges.

Representatives for James, Drake and the Fostys and their companies had no immediate comment.

Hunter, who resides in Harlem, fell out with the NBA Players Union. He was ousted in 2013 after serving as union director since 1996, and the two sides reached a confidential settlement after he fought back to be replaced.

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