Published May 04, 2020Tommy Wiseau has been ordered by an Ontario court judge to shell out nearly $1 million to Canadian filmmakers over their documentary about his cult film The Room.
The case stems from the unauthorized documentary Room Full of Spoons — a film that Wiseau attempted to block. According to Wiseau, the Canadian film violated his copyright by using clips from 2003's The Room and invaded his privacy by revealing Wiseau's origins in Poland.
The documentary filmmakers were attempting to put out Room Full of Spoons around the release of 2017 Wiseau biopic The Disaster Artist, but Wiseau filed a lawsuit over the doc and derailed the release by obtaining an injunction in Toronto.
However, as Variety reports, Ontario Superior Court Judge Paul Schabas has now ruled in favour of Room Full of Spoons filmmakers Richard Harper, Fernando Forero McGrath, Mark Racicot and Richard Towns.
A post on the Room Full of Spoons website about the legal victory reads, "The plaintiffs' claim is dismissed. The counterclaim of the defendants is granted and the plaintiffs shall pay to the defendant Room Full of Spoons Inc. US$550,000 in compensatory damages, plus CDN$200,000 in punitive damages. The defendants are entitled to their costs.
"The plaintiff is Tommy Wiseau. The defendants are yours truly, Room Full of Spoons.
Following a trial in January, Schabas ruled in favour of the Canadian filmmakers on April 23, with the judge denying Wiseau's copyright claims. He found the documentary makers were entitled to use the clips under the doctrine of "fair dealing" (or "fair use").
"In my view this action was brought for the improper purpose of preventing the release of a documentary disliked by Tommy Wiseau," Schabas wrote in his judgement.
The judge ordered Wiseau to pay $550,000 USD (about $775,000 CAD) to the filmmakers over lost revenue due to the derailed release. The judge also awarded them an additional $200,000 CAD in punitive damages, citing Wiseau's "oppressive and outrageous" conduct toward the documentary makers.
Overall, Schabas found that Wiseau acted in bad faith in efforts to prevent the documentary's release.
"In doing so, the plaintiffs were concerned with protecting and maximizing the value of The Disaster Artist, in which the plaintiffs have a financial interest," the judge ruled.
Following the legal victory, Harper — who wrote and directed Room Full of Spoons — told Variety he is at last seeking proper distribution for the documentary, which will likely arrive via streaming platforms.
"This case is a very big deal for any creatives or documentary filmmakers here in Canada," Harper said. "The case was very frivolous."
Room Full of Spoons used about seven minutes of footage from the original Room film via 69 clips. When the filmmakers tried to license the footage from Wiseau back in 2015, he allegedly demanded fees that were exorbitant and demanded to have the final approval about what was contained in the documentary, leading the filmmakers to instead use the clips under the protections of "fair dealing."
Under "fair dealing," the law allows the limited use of copyrighted material for the purpose of criticism or news reporting.
Over Wiseau's complaint that the film exposed his Polish origins, the judge wrote: "This information was available from public sources, which is how the defendants obtained and confirmed it. Wiseau may be sensitive about this information because he has cultivated an aura of mystery around it, but disclosure of these facts is not, objectively speaking, something which can be described as 'highly offensive.'"
Apparently, Wiseau also did not cooperate with the legal process here in Canada, often failing to show up for legal proceedings and requesting multiple last-minute delays — something Schabas pointed out in his judgement.
"Much of Wiseau's testimony was simply assertions without more," the judge wrote. "He avoided answering many questions and complained about the process. Wiseau gave lengthy self-serving answers in re-examination."
You can read the full judgment against Wiseau over here and learn more about Room Full of Spoons via the film's website.