Wednesday, September 5, 2012
The Estate of Mario Puzo, the author of The Godfather, has reached an agreement with Paramount over a new book that the estate has licensed. Unfortunately, this new book has done little to quell the fighting between Puzo's estate and Paramount. When the estate announced that it was seeking to license a new book, Paramount brought suit claiming that they obtained a right to veto any future projects when they purchased the license from Puzo in 1969. The estate disagreed and "filed a counter-suit the following month, alleging that an earlier 1967 rights agreement between the two sides excluded and reserved 'book publishing rights' for Puzo, who died in 1999." The estate also claimed that the Paramount breached their contract and tortuously interfered in right to license a new book. The estate sought remedies in the sum of $10 million and wanted the court to terminate the agreement between Puzo and Paramount.
At the beginning of summer, the two sides came to some sort of agreement. Paramount agreed to allow the new book to be released. In exchange, the profits that Puzo's estate earned would be held in escrow until a court resolved the conflict. However, this led to more fighting. Now, Puzo's estate wants a judge to remove Paramount's rights to The Godfather. Puzo's wants the court to cancel Paramount's rights, whereas Paramount sees this as repudiating its rights. Paramount argued that the court cannot do this unless one of the parties states its intent to breach the contract. Puzo's estates claims that Paramount has confused repudiation with cancellation. Regardless, the court could possibly choose either option. If court chooses to repudiate the rights of Paramount, Puzo's estate would have to return the $50,000 that Puzo was given for the rights to The Godfather. In addition, Paramount will hold on to rights to the original Godfather movies, but the estate will be earn the rights to any future productions, which are estimated at $100 million.
See Eriq Gardner, Estate Asks Judge to Take Away Paramount's Rights to More 'Godfather Films', The Hollywood Reporter, Sept. 4, 2012; see also Larry Neumeister, Paramount & 'Godfather' Heirs Clas In Court: Will There Be More 'Godfather' Movies?, The Huffington Post, Aug. 30, 2012.
Special thanks to David S. Luber (Attorney at law, Florida Probate Attorney Wills and Estates Law Firm) and Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing these articles to my attention.