LOS ANGELES, Oct. 1, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Dr. Jerry Spolar and Dr. Tonny Jill Williamson are suing Discovery Channel in federal court for the unauthorized use of the last photographic image of President Abraham Lincoln alive, which was taken on his deathbed on April 14, 1865, and is referred to as an ambrotype. The Lincoln Ambrotype is an image made from photographic technology used in the 1850s and 1860s, and it consists of an exposed glass negative set against a dark background.
A new documentary, The Lost Lincoln, seeks to determine whether the "newly discovered" ambrotype is authentic. Spoiler alert, it has already been authenticated and represents the life work of Dr. Jerry Spolar and Dr. Tonny Jill Williamson. Dr. Spolar's ownership interest of the ambrotype of President Lincoln began in December 1996. The Lincoln Ambrotype was sold previously at a well-publicized auction in August 1996, by an individual who received it from the Hanks (Lincoln) family in Illinois. Since that time, Drs. Spolar and Williamson partnered to acquire 100% ownership and have spent more than two decades and hundreds of thousands of dollars to confirm its authenticity.
"Discovery Channel was made aware of the binding non-disclosure agreements in January 2020, and should have known that the information was obtained unlawfully by those bound to secrecy," said attorney Dylan W. Wiseman of the Buchalter law firm, which is representing the plaintiffs.
At the center of the controversy is Discovery Channel's contractor Ms. Whitny Braun who is being sued for stealing trade secrets from Drs. Spolar and Williamson. In February 2018, she and her father, James Braun, and Archie Gips, president of a production company called Unrealistic Ideas, signed non-disclosure agreements (NDA) swearing to protect the highly confidential trade secrets prior to a detailed presentation about the photograph and plans for a documentary.
Despite promising secrecy and being in receipt of cease and desist letters, Ms. Braun, along with Unrealistic Ideas, sought to profit from the one-of-a-kind ambrotype and trade secret research and authentication conclusions of Drs. Spolar and Williamson.
Fast forward to September 14, 2020 when Discovery Channel released a trailer for its documentary, the host - and alleged source of the research and information relating to the Lincoln Ambrotype - is none other than Ms. Braun. This is the same Ms. Braun, an assistant-professor at Loma Linda University Center for Christian Bioethics, who had never heard of the Lincoln Ambrotype prior to speaking to Drs. Spolar and Williamson, and misappropriating their trade secret information.
Furthermore, based on the video trailer, Discovery Channel's documentary contains factual inaccuracies and errors, including, without limitation, the false statement that the Lincoln Ambrotype was taken after President Lincoln had died.
The Buchalter firm filed for a temporary restraining order against Discovery Channel and others on September 28, 2020 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
"Discovery Channel should have more respect for the rich history of the Lincoln legacy than to knowingly attempt to produce a documentary based on illegally obtained trade secret intellectual property, painstakingly created over decades of effort," concluded Mr. Wiseman.
SOURCE Buchalter law firm