Whitney Houston film producers sued for not paying to license songs

A lawsuit has been filed against the producers of Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance with Somebody over an alleged failure to pay the licensing fees for the late singer’s music.

As reported by Music Business Worldwide, Sony Music Entertainment, which oversees Houston’s music catalogue, say that a legal agreement was made for the film’s use of over 20 songs, but claims that the payments have not been made, despite being due in July 2023.

According to the BBC, Sony is requesting approximately $3.6million (£2.85million) in damages, with companies named in the case including Anthem Films, NYBO Productions and Black Label Media.


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Naomi Ackie (Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker) played Houston in the film, and spoke at the time of its release of the potential perils of taking on the role.

“I know that by playing Whitney I’m potentially putting myself in the firing line,” she said. “Though I’m more aware of [what I’m getting into] because I’m 31 and she was 19 when she entered the industry.”

However, Ackie admitted that she was still daunted by the prospect of becoming a major star. “I love being in front of the camera and telling stories, but [fame] feels alien to me. I can already see my life changing. And I really like my life!”

In a four-star review of I Wanna Dance with Somebody, NME wrote: “Somewhat inevitably, the film ends with a dazzling recreation of an iconic Houston live performance. The narrative device that takes us there feels contrived – Houston is reminded of the night in question by a sympathetic barman – but the emotional payoff is satisfying anyway. I Wanna Dance with Somebody isn’t as illuminating as it could be, but it still feels like a fitting tribute to a brave and complicated artist with a genuinely incredible gift.”

Last year, the Houston estate said they were “disappointed” in an “unnecessary” joke by Jerrod Carmichael at the Golden Globes, when he quipped, “So, we are here, live, from the hotel that killed Whitney Houston, the Beverly Hilton.”