Court Throws Out Olivia de Havilland’s ‘Feud’ Lawsuit — a Case With Implications for First Amendment Rights

Mar 26, 2018  •  Post A Comment

“A California appeals court on Monday threw out a lawsuit by 101-year-old actress Olivia de Havilland against the creators of the FX Networks show ‘Feud: Bette and Joan,’ bringing an abrupt end to a closely watched case that pitted an individual’s rights to their life and likeness against the rights of artists to depict them,” the AP reports.

“The 2nd District Court of Appeal said in a unanimous decision that the First Amendment rights of the show’s creators clearly trump de Havilland’s claims that permission to use her likeness was needed and she should have been compensated,” the story reports.

The three-judge panel wrote in its decision in Los Angeles: “Whether a person portrayed in one of these expressive works is a world-renowned film star — ‘a living legend’ — or a person no one knows, she or he does not own history. Nor does she or he have the legal right to control, dictate, approve, disapprove, or veto the creator’s portrayal of actual people.”

The AP adds: “The judges agreed with FX along with entities like the Motion Picture Association of America and Netflix, which supported the network, that the logic behind de Havilland’s suit would make legal action possible against ‘all books, films, plays and television programs that accurately portray real people.’”

The judges also wrote: “The First Amendment does not permit this result.”

Ryan Murphy, the creator of “Feud,” said the reversal is “a victory for the creative community and the First Amendment” that “gives all creators the breathing room necessary to continue to tell important historical stories inspired by true events. Most of all, it’s a great day for artistic expression.”


  1. I look forward to a movie portraying this judge as a horrific child molester, as that would just be an “artistic” portrayal of a real person.

  2. Honestly I don’t think it’s the same thing, if they did movie about you and showed you to be a child molester when you’re not , that would be a libel and/or slander case. Apparently this movie is based on historical fact as told by witnesses and gleaned from Hollywood legend and news articles of the day. What you’re talking about is being forced to portray Hitler as a nice guy, so that the memory of Hitler would not be stained and his relatives couldn’t sue. That’s ridiculous.

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