33-year-old movie at center of copyright dispute

| Oct 18, 2013 | Copyright Law

It might seem difficult to believe that a movie that was produced 33 years ago could only now be the subject of a copyright battle. However, that is exactly the case with a lawsuit over the film “Raging Bull,” starring Robert De Niro, which hit theaters in 1980.

The film was based on the life of Jake LaMotta, a championship boxer. LaMotta wrote a book and two screenplays about his life and career with a friend. One of the screenplays had the name “The Raging Bull,” which was LaMotta’s nickname.

Now, the daughter of his collaborator is suing the movie studio that owns the film for copyright infringement. She didn’t bring the suit until 2009, and now the Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear an appeal in the case. A district court in California ruled earlier that she had waited too long to bring the case. According to copyright law, although there is a three-year statute of limitation, that timeframe resets whenever there is a new violation.

This case demonstrates the importance of having an experienced California copyright attorney. People who create a piece, such as a book or movie, might find that their work is challenged decades after it has been created and published. And, as this case shows, such a case might find its way all the way to the highest court in the land. Taking care to establish the proper safeguards with intellectual property could make a case such as this one easier to defend.

Source: The New York Times, “Justices to Hear ‘Raging Bull’ Copyright Appeal,” Adam Litvak, Oct. 1, 2013