Legal dispute over Miracle Rising

2013-02-10 10:01

Local production company Combined Artists faces a lawsuit from a Joburg academic over the much anticipated Miracle Rising: South Africa documentary, scheduled to premiere on DStv’s History Channel tomorrow night.

Dr Geoffrey Heald, a senior lecturer at Wits University business school, is crying foul over alleged copyright violations.

Heald accuses the production house of failing to credit him in Miracle Rising.

He alleges several of his literary works, including a PhD thesis, formed the basis of the documentary.

He has approached the North Gauteng High Court to seek a declaration that the film constitutes a reproduction and/or adaption of his work for which he is not credited.

The doccie celebrates South Africa’s democratic breakthrough and features interviews with some of the biggest names in politics, business, civil society and the arts, including Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Mamphela Ramphele, Whoopi Goldberg, Charlize Theron and Cyril Ramaphosa.

Speaking for Combined Artists, attorney Lucia Smyth confirmed Heald had instituted legal action against her clients.

“The claim of copyright violation has been denied by our client. We are challenging it,” Smyth said.

City Press has learnt Heald initially approached the History Channel in the US in 2006 to enquire whether his PhD thesis could be converted into a documentary. The channel responded positively and advised him to contact Combined Artists and Brett Lotriet, a television director and writer.

Heald’s thesis was then passed on to the History Channel, Combined Artists and others including Lotriet, Thys Botha and Michele Sparkes.

Heald had been working with Sparkes and Lotriet on the documentary since 2006 when a pilot was shot.

Heald was then approached by Combined Artists to discuss his credits in 2012.

He insisted that his copyright be acknowledged in the film.

Combined Artists took the view that the documentary was not based on his two theses and he had no claim to the copyright.

The show will still be screened.

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