One of the biggest soccer ball brands in the world is fighting back against an HBO documentary that the soccer ball company claims unfairly defamed it.
Mitre Sports International is pursuing a lawsuit against HBO for its 2008 documentary, “Children of Industry,” produced by Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. The documentary showed starving Indian children working under forced labor conditions for the soccer ball company.
Mitre alleges that the scenes of child labor in the program were faked, and that the documentary was a hoax. Mitre has produced evidence and is expected to call witnesses testifying that the Indian children were paid to pretend to be child laborers and were taught by producers how to stitch soccer balls. The company has introduced depositions of the featured children as well as unedited footage which it believes will prove that HBO manipulated its video to unfairly cast Mitre as an employer of child laborers.
Mitre is fighting back especially hard because the brand has spent the past two decades leading a global effort to stop child labor. According to Mitre officials, the company has made over 24,000 unscheduled visits to its factories during this time to ensure that child labor was not used.
For its part, HBO claims to have extensively researched its report during a trip to India. The TV company claims to have seen multiple Indian children stitching soccer balls, some of which were for the Mitre brand.
HBO is the first national broadcaster in years to face a trial for defamation. During opening statements, attorneys for Mitre showed the jury footage of the documentary, claiming that HBO producers pulled children out of playdates and made them cry while stitching soccer balls. Reportedly, the company also saw instances of children being mistreated and abused, and did nothing to intervene. Attorneys for Mitre also told the jury to expect testimony from lawmakers and other prominent figures who have claimed that they were misquoted or edited to seem as if they were blaming Mitre for the global problem of child labor and abuse.
The trial is expected to last for up to four weeks, and should come to a conclusion near the end of May.
Every film producer wants his or her movie to make an impact. This is especially true with documentaries, which often expose wrongdoing or tragedies which would otherwise go unnoticed. However, sometimes in the quest to expose the truth, reality is stretched to make a better story.
Regardless of who wins this case, it should serve as a warning to documentary producers and directors about the consequences of exaggerating real-life stories.
Companies which stand to lose money from negative publicity can be especially aggressive when it comes to protecting their brand names. If you are concerned about legal liability for defamation in your film, or if you believe that you are the victim of defamation, an experienced entertainment law attorney can help you determine your legal options.
At Pierce Law Group LLP, our experienced Los Angeles entertainment lawyers can help you fight for your rights or defend your film or documentary. For a free initial consultation, contact us today by calling (310) 274-9191, or sign up for our free email newsletter for more information impacting the film and entertainment industry.