UPDATE, FRIDAY NIGHT: US District Court Judge Stephen Wilson today denied a temporary restraining order request against Discovery Communications and Unrealistic Productions over a forthcoming documentary. The judge cited the right to free speech and laws against prior restraint in his ruling.
That means the Discovery Channel’s broadcast of the documentary Undiscovered: The Lost Lincoln will air Sunday as scheduled.
Dr. Jerry Spolar and Dr. Tonny Jill Williamson own a photograph on glass that may be the last known image of Abraham Lincoln. They claim the Discovery Channel violated a nondisclosure agreement and misappropriated their research to prepare the documentary. They sought a TRO to buy time to review the documentary.
Spolar and Williamson allege breach of contract, violation of trade secrets, and unfair competition in their court pleading. Discovery Channel contractor Whitny Braun, the show’s host and executive producer of the documentary, is accused of allegedly stealing trade secrets from the plaintiffs.
The suit claims that Braun sought to profit from the photo, known as an ambrotype, and the plaintiffs’ research and authentication and work.
Discovery claims it did not know there were competing claims of ownership when it signed a deal with a production company co-owned by Mark Wahlberg. It also argues that a temporary restraining order to stop the broadcast is not supported by law.
“The Supreme Court’s precedent on prior restraint is ironclad,” the channel’s attorneys wrote in their filing Monday. “In the famous Pentagon Papers case, the Supreme Court established that a plaintiff must make an extraordinary showing of harm in order to obtain a court order that stops the news media from publishing information on a matter of public concern.”
Spolar, an Illinois dentist, and partner Williamson have claimed to have spent more than two decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars to confirm the Lincoln photo’s authenticity, according to their lawsuit.
“Discovery Channel should have more respect for the rich history of the Lincoln legacy than to knowingly attempt to produce a documentary based on illegally obtained trade secret intellectual property, painstakingly created over decades of effort,” according to the plaintiffs’ attorney Dylan W. Wiseman.
City News Service (CNS) first reported the story.
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