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Hollywood Fight Over ‘Virgin’ Novel

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Los Angeles-based Balagan Enterprises claims in Federal Court that it owns rights to James Patterson's novel "Virgin," CBS and Paramount Pictures are interfering with its attempts to make a movie based on the book.

Balagan also claims that CBS threatened to sue it over rights to the Patterson novel, which was republished as "Cradle and All."

Balagan claims it has held exclusive rights to the book since 2002. Balagan sued CBS Corp., Paramount Pictures Corp., and Wilshire Court Productions, in a 16-page complaint with 232 pages of exhibits.

"Plaintiff is informed and believes that during the period relevant to the contracts discussed below all named defendants, namely, CBS, Paramount Pictures and Wilshire Court Productions, were affiliated entities under the ownership of Viacom Inc.," the complaint states. "Viacom and CBS split on January 3, 2006. PPC remained a part of Viacom and WCP remained with CBS. A single individual is presently the controlling shareholder of both Viacom and CBS. During the time periods relevant hereto, these companies transferred rights and properties among themselves arbitrarily. PPC represented to the plaintiff's principals that they did not need to concern themselves with the identity of the actual entity that had transacted with James Patterson because PPC executives had the authority to act on the rights to the novel in the making of motion pictures. However, recently the defendants have disingenuously claimed that there are differences between them in an attempt to deny plaintiff its rights under the contracts to be discussed below. In actuality, the contracts are clear that plaintiff owns the rights for which it is seeking declaratory judgment, whether or not the defendants acted in concert or independently."

A movie version of the novel, "Child of Darkness, Child of Light," was broadcast on the USA Network in 1991.

Before production, Wilshire Court Productions optioned and exercised rights to the novel and granted those rights to Paramount Pictures, which financed the movie, according to the complaint.

The complaint cites a chain of five contracts to establish that Paramount Pictures held movie rights to the book.

Balagan claims that in 1994, Paramount entered into a final contract "with the direct predecessors in interest to the plaintiff."

Under the terms of that deal, Paramount worked with two producers, Wizan Film Properties and Xxcellent Films Inc. to make another movie version of "Virgin," the complaint states.

When Paramount abandoned the project, rights to the novel reverted to the producers, according to Balagan.

"The producer(s) assigned their rights, as they are relevant to the issues before the court, to A&E Industries: WFP [Wizan Film Properties] assigned all rights by agreement dated May 9, 2002 and Phase I Productions LLC and XFI assigned their rights to A&E by agreement dated May 2, 2002. Thereafter, A&E assigned its rights to plaintiff," the complaint states.

Balagan adds that CBS has denied that Paramount ever exercised its rights to the novel, and that the corporation also claims ownership of the rights as successor to Wilshire Court Productions.

But Balagan says that CBS misconstrued the contracts, because Wilshire, among other things, "was and is contractually prohibited from making use of the rights to produce subsequent productions itself or transferring such rights to anyone else ..."

The complaint states: "CBS and other defendants are interfering with and obstructing plaintiff's lawful exploitation of its rights in the subject copyright and novel. Plaintiff has asked CBS to acknowledge plaintiffs' rights, but CBS is instead contending that it alone owns the rights, preventing the plaintiff from producing one or more motion pictures for fear being sued. In fact, in the Ex. 11 letter, CBS has explicitly threatened to sue the plaintiff if plaintiff attempts to exercise its rights under the copyright. Additionally, contractors and service providers will be reluctant to assist plaintiff in the production out of fear of being sued themselves. Plaintiff and its principals are experienced, well qualified and well known in the movie production industry, and have the full capability to produce a financially successful product. Plaintiff has already expended significant sums in preparation for producing a movie, and is suffering additional damages because of the intransigence, threats and delaying tactics of CBS and other defendants."

Balagan seeks a declaratory judgment that owns the rights to the book.

It is represented by Christopher Darrow of Santa Monica.

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