Legal fight starts over Raging Bull copyright

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 October, 2013, 5:05am

The boxing movie Raging Bull may have come out 33 years ago, but a copyright fight over an early screenplay has found its way to the US Supreme Court.

The court agreed on Tuesday to take up the case brought by Paula Petrella, daughter of the deceased screenwriter Frank Petrella.

She says MGM Holdings and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment have infringed the copyright of a 1963 screenplay upon which she alleges the 1980 movie was based.

Fox is named as a defendant because it has the rights to distribute MGM movies on DVD.

The acclaimed film about the life of champion boxer Jake LaMotta starred Robert De Niro and was directed by Martin Scorsese. It won two Oscars in 1981, including the best actor award for De Niro. Petrella inherited the rights to the screenplay upon her father's death in 1981.

She renewed the copyright in 1991 after hearing about a 1990 Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled in favour of the copyright holder of a magazine article upon which the Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window was based.

But she did not take action until the late 1990s. Then she said MGM was infringing on her rights by continuing to market the movie.

Raging Bull is not the only sports movie at the centre of legal proceedings.

In a case filed on Tuesday in federal court, producer Ryan Brooks is suing Warner Bros and Clint Eastwood's production company, claiming they stole the idea for last year's baseball movie Trouble With the Curve.

In his 120-page copyright infringement complaint, Brooks alleges there was a vast conspiracy to deny him and his company, Gold Glove Productions, proper credit for the screenplay.

But the movie, which starred Eastwood and Amy Adams, was a critical and commercial flop and grossed only US$49 million worldwide.

Reuters, McClatchy-Tribune