(CN) – Federico Fellini’s classic film “La Dolce Vita” belongs to Paramount Pictures, a federal judge in California ruled.
“La Dolce Vita” (Italian for “The Sweet Life”) is the story of a week in the life of a playboy journalist in Rome, torn between domestic life with his girlfriend and the glitzy culture of celebrity.
Fellini’s work won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1960, as well as an Oscar for best costume design in a black-and-white film. It was also nominated for best director, best screenplay and best art design.
International Media claimed it owned the rights to the movie and licensed a re-issue of the movie on DVD to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the film in 2011.
In November of that year, Paramount Pictures Corp. sued International Media Films Inc. in Federal Court in Los Angeles, claiming copyright infringement and seeking a declaration that it is the sole owner of the film.
The two sides submitted written arguments over the rights to the film. Both agree that the film’s producers transferred rights to Cinemat S.A.in 1962, but their stories diverge from there.
Paramount claimed that later in 1962, Cinemat sold its rights to the film to Astor Pictures for $1.5 million. After decades of movie companies transferring the film’s rights and going into bankruptcy, Paramount claimed, it has licensed the film from copyright owner and fellow plaintiff Melange Pictures LLC since 2005.
International Media claimed the Cinemat sold the rights to “La Dolce Vita” to Hor A.G. in 1980. Eventually, IMF claimed, it purchased the rights from Cinestampa Internazionale S.r.L. in 2001.
After weighing the evidence and without hearing oral arguments, the federal court ruled in favor of Paramount in a decision written by U.S. District Judge S. James Otero.
“Even if defendant did have admissible evidence authenticating the Cinemat-Hor Transfer agreement, this would still not create a genuine dispute of a material fact as to the validity of Plaintiff’s chain of title. The purported Cinemat-Hor Transfer does not, in and of itself, call into question Plaintiff’s ownership of the rights to the film because it does not directly attack the authenticity or validity of any of the transfers in plaintiff’s chain of title,” Otero wrote.
“Rather, if Cinemat had already transferred the same rights to Astor Pictures in 1962, then the Cinemat-Hor transfer 18 years later is a nullity and therefore irrelevant to Plaintiffs’ motion,” he added.
The judge found that Paramount could not only prevail on one of its three copyright infringement claims.
“Here, plaintiffs provide no evidence that defendant engaged in direct copyright infringement by reproducing or distributing the film itself. Rather, all the evidence shows is that defendant authorized others to do so through licensing agreements,” Otero wrote.
The judge also denied Paramount’s claim for vicarious copyright infringement but did rule in Paramount’s favor on its action for contributory copyright infringement.
“It is undisputed that KLF and E1, defendant’s licensees, engaged in direct copyright infringement by distributing the film,” Otero wrote.
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