Drake and LeBron James is facing a new $10 million lawsuit over the underlying rights to an upcoming documentary they’re producing called Black ice creamabout the history of black players in professional ice hockey.
In a complaint filed Monday in Manhattan court, longtime NBA players’ union chief Billy Hunter said he owns the exclusive film rights to a 2004 book that forms the basis of the soon-to-be-released documentary — but that he was not involved in the production of the film.
“Although the defendants … are internationally known and renowned in their respective fields of basketball and music, that does not give them the right to steal someone else’s intellectual property,” Hunter wrote. “Yet that’s exactly what happened.”
Directed by Canadian filmmaker Hubert Davis, Black ice cream premieres this weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival with Drake and LeBron as executive producers. The festival describes the film as an “intrusive, urgent documentary” that “examines the history of anti-black racism in hockey,” ranging from “segregated leagues in the 19th century to professional leagues today.”
One aspect of the film is the Colored Hockey League of the Maritimes, a little-known league that operated in coastal Canada in the early decades of the 20th century. The portions are based on Darryl Fosty and George Fosty‘s 2004 non-fiction book of the same name, which recounts the CHL’s “lost history”.
In his lawsuit, Hunter says he paid Fosty $10,000 in 2019 for an exclusive option on the movie rights to the book, and then another $250,000 in February to exercise that option. Despite these clear contractual agreements, Hunter alleges that Fostys then reached a separate agreement with the manufacturers of Black ice cream.
“Not content to have received $265,000 from plaintiff, the defendant authors of the property entered into another agreement to sell the very same rights already owned and controlled by plaintiff,” his lawyers wrote. When confronted by Hunter, the writers say that a “documentary” was different from a “film”, but Hunter called that argument “absurd and made in bad faith.”
Hunter names the Fostys as defendants and says the two are liable for “all damages arising from their wrongful double-selling of the rights plaintiff owns in the property.”
As for LeBron and Drake, Hunter says the two superstars and others involved in the documentary knew about his pre-existing rights to the book, but went ahead with their film anyway. According to the lawsuit, when the producers learned of the previous rights deal, they tried to convince Hunter to sell his rights to the book. But Hunter he says ” stated unequivocally that this was a passion project of his, and he had no interest in selling his exclusive option or any part of his rights.”
Reps for Drake and LeBron did not immediately return requests for comment Tuesday.
Read the entire trial here: