Sunday, September 09, 2007

As the Shoe Drops....Aguiar v. Webb et al

Aguiar v. Webb et al
Plaintiff: William V. Aguiar, III
Defendant: Floyd Webb, Barron Sheppard, Wendy Sheppard and Ashida Kim

Case Number: 1:2007cv11673
Filed: September 7, 2007

Court: Massachusetts District Court
Office: Boston Office [ Court Info ]
County: Bristol
Presiding Judge: Chief Judge Mark L. Wolf

Nature of Suit: Intellectual Property - Copyrights
Cause: 17:101 Copyright Infringement
Jurisdiction: Federal Question
Jury Demanded By: None

So here we go. People have been wondering why the blog has been quiet. I just got done with quite a few little summer projects that I normally do. I have been doing pre-production of re-enactments for the doc, specifically the dojo war and a few other things that will be useful to the story. I should be in production in the next three weeks on those re-enactments.

I want to give the story some heart. The story is not only about the wild antics of John Keehan. It is about the world of martial arts up to his death in 1975. It is also about the people who came before him and influenced him and helped built a martial arts presence in America.

On the way to accomplishing this enormous task I have fallen into the litigation zone. As you can see from the above data, Willliam Aguiar III, Supreme Grand Master of the Black Dragon Fighting Society has filed suit against me for copyright infringement in the matter of my using materials he claims he owns in the making of my film, the posting of trailers on the internet and the use of images on my website.

Meanwhile, I have been engaged as a client by the Fair Use Project for Documentary Film at Stanford University. They have the situation in hand and under control. The film is being made, nothing has stopped, I am actually engaged

So how do I feel about this? Indifferent. I am out to make a movie. This is more grist for the content mill as far as I am concerned. The real issue is money. They want as much as they can get for holding possession of images of John Keehan and want to stick me up for it. Their point is to cause me distress in the making of the film. The point is to tied me up and cause me enormous expense to prevent the making of the film without them being paid tribute. That is my interpretation.

I have claimed fair use for certain materials I am using in the film. I asked his lawyer for a visual catalog of materials they claimed ownership of over a year ago. I tried to speak to Aguiar over a year ago to remove the lawyers from this until we could assess what he actually had and what I wanted to use. I was willing to make a fair market offer for archival footage of John Keehan he owned free of any other disputes, that had clear ownership. I also wanted to indemnified against other claims by other parties for any footage he claimed that I wanted to use. William Aguiar III wanted to be paid for an interview, while he never actually knew John Keehan, his father was the business partner of Keehan and had recently died.

In walks a character by the name of John Creeden III who sells my newly aquired business partner film footage of John Keehan that he claims is owned by his father John Creeden, Jr.
My business partner paid out $1,000 for unlimited rights to use the film footage of Count Dante showing moves from the Dance of Death and wrestling. Creeden shot the film footage directly from a TV monitor and not from digitized 8mm footage as was discussed and agreed upon. Out of about 5 minutes of footage there is about 2 minutes I would be interested in using.

In a classic scenario of why I was not making agreements for upfront payments for anything, pending some kind of certification of and right to ownership, Aguiar claims copyright infringement.

Several weeks ago William Aguiar III contacted me by Yahoo Instant Messenger, initially as "Tom Souza." Upon my refusal to speak to this stranger he revealed his true identity. He was offering to do make a deal without the lawyers. There was no way i could trust thse guys so I told them to contact the attorney of record on my counter of their website takedown. John Creeden was the icing on the cake of distrust as far as I was concerned. If they wanted to come to some kind of agreement they needed to communicate that to the attorney.

There is not a whole lot more to say about it. I am concentrating on getting much needed footage done. No time left to spend playing with Fall River.

The attorney's have it in hand. I got a deadline to meet.


Anonymous said...

Hey Floyd, do yourself a favor and get a change of venue before you find out you have walked in a trap. File papers and get the case moved out of Bristol County to a neutral location. You are being set up.

floyd webb said...

I love these anonymous warnings. Let's see what we can do about this.