1980s Zombie Flick Is Alive! In Court

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – An Italian company sold footage of the 1980s horror film “Zombie” to Microsoft’s advertising agency, though it has no rights to the film in the United States, a California distributor claims in court.
     Blue Underground and JGO Management sued Euro Immobilfin, and Variety Pictures S.R.L. in Superior Court.
     Blue Underground and JGO claim they hold an exclusive license to exploit U.S. and Canadian rights to “Zombie,” aka “Zombi 2” directed by the late Italian gore merchant Lucio Fulci.
     According to the complaint, defendants Euro and Variety licensed “Zombie” footage for a 2010 Microsoft ad for Windows 7 to the ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, though the Italians had no rights to the movie in the United States.
     JGO (Jerry Gross Organization) released “Zombie” in America in 1980. It was produced by Variety and Euro’s predecessor in interest, VarFilms, and was “one of the top grossing films of that year,” Blue Underground says in the complaint.
     Before the movie’s release, California distributor (nonparty) Zombie Company had purchased exclusive U.S. and Canadian distribution rights for $350,000, according to the complaint. At the end of 1981, Zombie Company assigned those rights to JGO, which continued to license rights to the movie for three decades, the complaint states.
     JGO claims that in 2004 it licensed the “Zombie” rights to Blue Underground for seven years, and in 2011 extended the license for 10 more years.
     “In or about October 2011, Blue released the motion picture on Blu-Ray format with an accompanying theatrical release in twenty-five major United States cities,” the complaint states.
     But in June this year, Euro claimed to own the “Zombie” copyright, and sent Blue Underground and its distribution partners cease and desist letters, the complaint states.
     “Euro has further slandered Blue’s title and interest in the motion picture by falsely asserting to third parties that Blue does not own the copyright in the motion picture in the United States and Canada,” the complaint states.
     Blue Underground and JGO claim that Blu-Ray sales of “Zombie” suffered, and that Euro is preventing them from exploiting the movie in other media, including video-on-demand cable services. Euro caused the companies “severe damage to their reputation in the entertainment community,” the complaint states.
     Blue Underground and JGO say they sent a cease and desist to Crispin Porter + Bogusky after they became aware of the Microsoft advertisement. But an attorney for the ad agency refused to recognize the license, claiming that it belongs to Euro.
     Blue Underground says it believes Euro registered copyright of the movie at the U.S. Copyright Office. Euro is “refusing to turn over key elements for the picture (e.g., original negatives) to plaintiffs which are required in order to exploit and distribute the motion picture in new media such as 4k Digital Theater and 3D,” the plaintiffs claim.
     They demand a jury trial and $200,000 in damages for breach of contract and intentional interference with prospective business advantage; a declaration that they own exclusive rights to the picture in the United States and Canada; an order enjoining the defendants from distributing the movie in United States and Canada.
     “Zombie” aka “Zombi 2,” “Zombies,” “Zombie Island,” “Zombie Flesh-Eaters” and “Woodoo” made Fulci a household name in the horror genre, though he started his career in the early 1950s as a director of Italian comedies. He died at 68 in Rome in 1996.
     The plaintiffs are represented by George Braunstein of Los Angeles, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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