The show, which became a hit upon its release in March 2020, focused on Joseph Maldonado Passage, aka “Joe Exotic,” owner of a “big cat” zoo.
“The series was filled with sordid tales of animal abuse, voluminous guns and a quixotic bid for the U.S. presidency,” the lawsuit against Netflix and Goode Films reads. “Most significantly, the program followed a murder-for-hire plot aimed at a competing animal sanctuary owner, hated by Joe Exotic, and seen as a threat to his ‘big cat’ empire.” That person was Carole Baskin, and Joe Exotic is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence.
The lawsuit claims that the show used two clips of Ace Venture 2 featuring star Jim Carrey “without permission or license.” One such clip featured Carrey with a “monkey wrapped around his neck and shoulder” and another “triumphantly riding an elephant.”
The lawsuit says that the two clips, which totaled five seconds of screen time, were featured in a Tiger King sequence in which animals including tigers, panthers, monkey and great apes are featured.
“Leaving no room for doubt as to the source, a dubbed-over voice identifies one such movie as Ace Ventura, at the precise time when the Infringing Clips appear on screen,” the lawsuit says. “Plantiff is informed and believes, and thereupon alleges, that Ace Ventura is the only film used in Tiger King where more than one clip appears.”
Morgan Creek alleges that the episode was seen by “an audience of literally millions of viewers — many of them more than once, multiplying the harm to MCP — all while knowing or having reason to know of the use of the Infringing Clips was without permission, content or license.”
It also claims that the “two comedic scenes” served to “enhance the commercial value of Tiger King” by showing that wild animals are often used in film and TV productions; adding “levity” to the episode, which helped drive viewership; and implying that the people behind Ace Ventura 2 were “promoting Tiger King favorably.”
Morgan Creek, which says it tried to solve the dispute before filing the lawsuit, to no avail, is seeking statutory damages along with attorney’s fees and is asking that the defendants be permanently prohibited from using any clips owned by Morgan Creek.
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Netflix for comment.