LOS ANGELES (CN) – An independent Christian filmmaker says Rock Solid Productions tried to prevent him from releasing a documentary on the record company’s evangelical Christian founder, singer-songwriter Larry Norman, by threatening to sue him for copyright infringement. The company wants to silence “aspects of Norman’s life and career that Norman’s family apparently finds unpalatable,” filmmaker David Di Sabatino claims in Federal Court.
The plaintiff says he is also an evangelical Christian and “possibly the leading expert on Norman’s life and creative work,” outside Norman’s immediate family. Di Sabatino’s 2007 documentary “Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher” was nominated for an Emmy.
Di Sabatino claims he first interviewed Norman in his quest to document the “Jesus freak” movement of the 1960s and 1970s. At the time, Norman was the movement’s Bob Dylan, according to the lawsuit.
The plaintiff says Norman was “a bona fide rock star presenting an evangelistic message to his listeners to live their spiritual lives in a radical manner and spurn ‘worldly’ success.”
Di Sabatino made and funded a 1.5-hour documentary film about Norman, using music, video clips and photographs owned by Rock Solid Productions.
The plaintiff says his use of the material constitutes fair use, and that Rock Solid threatened litigation in order to protect Norman’s image as a Christian musical prophet, rather than “an ‘outlaw’ who conned the faithful,” as some Christians purportedly believe.
Di Sabatino says the company is now mainly controlled by Norman’s brother, Charles Norman, who “expressed an implacable hostility toward the documentary.”
The plaintiff seeks a court declaration that he neither violated the defendant’s copyrights nor Norman’s privacy rights.
He is represented by Lincoln Bandlow of Lathrop & Gage LLP.