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Monday, May 20, 2024 | Back issues
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MGM Settles ‘Raging Bull’|Copyright Fight

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The six-year copyright battle over the film classic "Raging Bull" is over, as the parties in the legal dispute announced on Friday that they had reached a settlement after entering into confidential talks in March.

When production company Chartoff-Winkler Productions acquired middleweight champion Jake LaMotta's book "Raging Bull: My Story" in 1976, rights were bundled with two screenplays by LaMotta friend and co-author Peter Savage.

It was Savage, also known as Frank Petrella, who introduced the book to the movie's star Robert DeNiro, according to a Vanity Fair article on the making of the film.

MGM subsidiary United Artists released "Raging Bull" in 1980, after registering the copyright to the film two months before its November release.

Savage died a little over a year after the film hit theaters. Renewal rights to his three "Raging Bull" works were handed down to his wife and children under the Copyright Act.

His daughter Pamela Petrella eventually asserted sole ownership of his joint interest in the book and two screenplays, according to court records. In 2009, she filed a $1 million copyright suit against MGM and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment for a cut of royalties from the film.

But a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that Petrella had waited too long to make her claims after first asserting an interest in "Raging Bull" in the '90s. The 9th Circuit affirmed in the summer of 2012.

The U.S. Supreme Court reversed the appeals court in a 6-3 decision last year, sending the case back to the federal court in California.

An April 3 notice of settlement says that Petrella intends to ask the court to dismiss the case.

Mardik Martin and Paul Schrader are the credited screenwriters on "Raging Bull," which charts the rise and fall of LaMotta, who is now 93.

Scorsese and DeNiro picked up Academy Award nominations for the black-and-white film. DeNiro's portrayal of LaMotta earned him a best actor Oscar.

Scorsese lost out to Robert Redford, who picked up the best director award for "Ordinary People."

Glen Kulik of Sherman Oaks firm Kulik Gottesman & Siegel represents Petrella. MGM is represented by Jonathan Zavin and David Grossman of Loeb & Loeb.

Kulik declined to comment. Zavin did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

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