Thursday, December 25, 2008
Watchmen: Fox vs. logic= Fox wins... Fans lose (possibly)
Judge Says Fox Owns Rights to a Warner Movie
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By MICHAEL CIEPLY
Published: December 24, 2008
LOS ANGELES — In a surprise ruling, a federal judge in Los Angeles said he intended to grant 20th Century Fox’s claim that it owns a copyright interest in the “Watchmen,” a movie shot by Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures and set for release in March.
The decision was disclosed in a five-page written order issued on Wednesday. Gary A. Feess, a judge in the United States District Court for Central California, said he would provide a more detailed order soon.
Fox has been seeking to prevent Warner from releasing the film. The superhero adventure, based on the “Watchmen” graphic novel, is being directed by Zack Snyder (who also directed “300”) and has shaped up as one of most eagerly anticipated releases for next year.
A Warner spokesman, Scott Rowe, declined to comment on the ruling and the studio’s plans.
At an earlier hearing, the judge said he believed that issues in the case could be settled only at a trial, which was scheduled for late January. On Wednesday, however, Judge Feess said he had reconsidered and concluded that Fox should prevail on crucial issues.
“Fox owns a copyright interest consisting of, at the very least, the right to distribute the ‘Watchmen’ motion picture,” the ruling said.
Fox acquired rights to the “Watchmen” graphic novel in the late 1980s for the producer Lawrence Gordon, but eventually dropped its own plan to make a movie from its story, about the underside of life for superbeings.
Mr. Gordon later pursued the project with Universal Pictures, and then with Paramount Pictures, before shooting it with Warner and Legendary under an arrangement that allows Paramount to distribute the film abroad.
In ruling on Wednesday, Judge Feess advised both Fox and Warner to look toward a settlement or an appeal.
“The parties may wish to turn their efforts from preparing for trial to negotiating a resolution of this dispute or positioning the case for review,” he said.
Now I call shenanigans. If I create something and sell the rights to a company to make a movie from it, but after 20 years, (let me repeat for emphasis, ahem... 20 YEARS) I should be able to bring it elsewhere to make a movie. Sure they should be reimbursed for what they spent to buy and maintain the copyright (though I believe they paid once and never paid any sort of additional fees) and then they are excluded from any further money generated by hard work done by someone else. I mean it is like asking for a job to be assigned to you. Rather than completing it you let the job sit undone, so long in fact that the person assigning said job assigns it to someone else. This guy (that takes it over) does a great job; he does so well he gets a bonus. Then you slide in and say 'hey I was assigned that job earlier but I didn't do it, but since I asked for it I deserve something.'
Argh. Shame on you Fox. Your version would have been a dreadful travesty anyways.