Director Sues Paramount And Universal After Both Deny Knowing Who Holds The Rights To His Film

from the ownership-culture dept

Rob Hyndman points us to the bizarre story of director William Friedkin, perhaps most well known for directing both The French Connection and The Exorcist in the early 1970s. However, right now he's in a bit of a legal dispute with both Paramount and Universal studios, who co-produced the film that came after both of those films, called Sorcerer. While not a box office success, apparently there's a fair bit of interest in the film these days, and there have been requests for Friedkin to screen it, and for him to appear and talk about it. However, Paramount and Universal both seem confused about who holds what rights -- and while both seem to claim some rights to the film, neither seems to know what those are (and at least Paramount claims it no longer can find a print of the film, though Friedkin says he has his own). Friedkin finally decided to sue to force the companies to clarify who holds what rights. There's also the separate issue that, despite a profit participation deal with the film, neither studio has actually provided him with an accounting statement in 20 years. From the filing, which is embedded below:
Friedkin is the director and producer of the 1977 motion picture Sorcerer.... Friedkin is also a profit participant in the Picture, and owns a print. Although Defendants Paramount... and Universal... have previously had certain rights to exploit the Picture in the United States, each has recently disclaimed rights to exploit the Picture in the United States, and admitted ignorance as to who, if anyone, currently has such rights. Bafflingly, however, defendants persist in denying that Friedkin has any rights to exploit the Picture. Friedkin has filed this action to obtain a declaration as to the parties' respective rights in the Picture.
It does seem fairly crazy that such an issue should end up in court, and it appears the court thinks so too. While the original was filed in California State Court, recently it was removed to federal court by the defendants, and the court immediately directed them to its alternative dispute resolution (ADR) program in the hopes that this gets settled outside of litigation. Either way, it seems like a pretty crazy situation where the studios deny the filmmaker the right to show the film, while at the same time refusing to explain what rights they do have in the film.

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  1. icon
    ltlw0lf (profile), 29 May 2012 @ 9:27am

    Re: Re: Possession is 9/10 of the law

    This is a common misconception - possession is NOT nine tenths of the law.

    Depends. If there are cops around that will listen to you, then that might be true. If there aren't, and you are willing to use force to keep possession, then it is true.

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