Porn Director Wins Copyright Dispute


     (CN) – The company claiming to own the rights to Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” lost its copyright claim against a pornography director who used the classic film as the basis for a gay porn film.




     U.S. District Judge John G. Koeltl in Manhattan ruled that International Media Films was unable to show that Lucas Entertainment infringed on the film because it couldn’t prove ownership of the Fellini film.
     “In fact, it is possible for the Fellini film to be in the public domain,” Koeltl wrote.
     The judge sided with Lucas Entertainment, which released a two-part gay pornographic film called “Michael Lucas’ La Dolce Vita.”
     International Media had sued Lucas for unfair competition, copyright and trademark infringement, claiming to be the rightful owner of the 1961 film directed by the Italian legend.
     Michael Lucas directed and starred in the adult take on Fellini’s work. Lucas has been dubbed “Gay Porn’s Neocon Kingpin” by the New Republic, and bills himself as “the most mainstreamed, provocative, and controversial figure in gay adult entertainment.”
     The judge also ruled that customers were unlikely to confuse the two films.
     “The Lucas film contains sexually explicit depictions that are not present in the Fellini film, and which occupy the majority of the running time of the Lucas film,” Koeltl wrote. “The Lucas film is primarily marketed and sold through stores, distributors, and Web sites that specialize in adult films, although it has been publicized in some non-adult media.
     “Retailers and distributors of the Lucas film generally do not stock the Fellini film,” Koeltl noted, ruling there “is no evidence that any consumer has returned either film on the grounds that the consumer was confused about its contents.”
     Lucas also pointed out that there are several other movie companies with Fellini spinoffs that International Media Films hasn’t sued for copyright infringement.
     Although International Media Films purports to own the rights to the Fellini classic, the true owner is not known. The judge said “La Dolce Vita” was “indisputably in the public domain in the United States prior to 1996.”
     An English-subtitled version of “La Dolce Vita” debuted in the United States in 1961 with Astor Pictures as its distributer. The film’s producer, Riama Film S.P.A., transferred Astor’s stake to a company called Ardisco Financial Corp., which created an English-dubbed version for U.S. distribution in 1966, according to Lucas.
     Lucas claimed that Ardisco’s rights were later acquired by Republic Entertainment, which registered a restored copy of the original Italian version in 1998. Paramount Pictures has allegedly controlled Republic’s film library since 2000, although International Media Films disputes this.
     Judge Koeltl granted the defendants summary judgment on both the copyright and trademarks claims. He said the evidence presented “lends support to the defendants’ argument that IMF does not hold the copyright to the Fellini film” and it “cannot prove that it owns a valid trademark.”
     “It follows from the fact that the plaintiff’s chain of title is insufficient that the ‘plaintiff does not have any ownership or propriety interest in any protectable mark that it alleges [the] defendant[s] to have infringed,'” the judge concluded.
     “Michael Lucas’ La Dolce Vita” is the most expensive gay porn film ever made, costing an estimated $250,000, according to The Advocate.
     Lucas Entertainment released the film in 2006.

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