MGM “Knocks Out” Raging Bull Lawsuit with Settlement

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Last year, we reported that the U.S. Supreme Court revived a longstanding copyright infringement lawsuit over the 1980 hit movie “Raging Bull.”  The suit was initially brought in 2009 when Paula Petrella, the daughter of Frank Petrella, alleged that MGM and 20th Century Fox (“MGM”) infringed on her father’s copyrights in a number of works written about the life of boxer Jake LaMotta.

Paula first became aware of her right to sue in the early 90’s based on a Supreme Court case related to Alfred Hithcock’s “Rear Window.”   However, it was not until 2009 that Petrella filed suit because of a number of delays including trouble lining up her attorneys.  Initially, MGM was granted summary judgment based on the argument that the suit was barred because of Paula’s length delay.  However, the Supreme Court overturned the grant of summary judgment last year.

On remand to the district court, MGM argued that Frank gave up his copyrights through an agreement transferring film rights to his book.  It further argued that some of the portions were historical facts, and those facts are not given copyright protection.  Petrella argued that some portions of the movie were based on Frank’s other works, not just the book.  Because of this, for the case to proceed, it would have required a costly, close examination of the film and all of Frank’s works.  In doing so, a determination would be made on the similarities and differences between the works.

A hearing was scheduled for April 27, but on April 3, the district court was informed that a settlement had been reached.  No details about the settlement were released.

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