Croatian Film Fest Marred After Competition Title Is Banned for Copyright Infringement

Music by David Bowie was used without permission in a Croatian film.
Music by David Bowie was used without permission in a Croatian film.
 

PULA, CROATIA — A film made by students of a Croatian regional film academy and produced by their professor ran foul of international copyright Saturday, when it was pulled from competition at the 61st edition of the Pula Film Festival.

Organizers of the festival — Croatia's leading national film showcase — withdrew Vlog, a debut by Bruno Pavic produced by film academy professor Slobodan Jokic, after seeking advice from top music industry lawyers in London over the use of music from classic albums of David Bowie, The Doors and Janis Joplin.

The 71-minute film relied upon the tracks for dramatic effect during a sequence when the eponymous video blogger of the title sings along to "Space Oddity" by Bowie, "Cry Baby" by Joplin and Jim Morrison's vocals on "Light My Fire."

Jurors that included Antonio Nuic, president of the Croatian Directors' Guild — which represents directors and also acts as a royalties collecting society in the EU country — complained to festival organizers immediately after the screening, where they noted that no music rights were logged in the credits.

British producer, Mike Downey, a member of the artistic board who is active in producing co-productions in the Balkans, said that after seeking legal advice the festival had been left with no option but to pull the film.

"We cannot condone copyright infringement by any film in our competition," Downey said, adding that it was a simple matter to check the legal position of music usage for any filmmaker.

Nuic told The Hollywood Reporter that the director's guild retains eight legal advisors who are on hand to give members free advice before films are released.

The incident did not stop the festival's national jury from naming its awards late Saturday.

The big winner was Number 55, a war film based on the true story of a group of Croatian fighters during the Balkans civil war who fall into a deadly trap in a Serb-held village from which none would escape with their lives.

The movie by Kristijan Milic scooped eight awards, including best film, best director and best script for Ivan Pavlicic.

The festival closed on a controversial note when organisers allowed an executive from Croatian TV, HRT, to come on stage to collect the main award for best film alongside its producer despite a protest by the jury.

Jasmina Bozinovska Zivalj, an executive at HRT, had insisted she should be on stage alongside the producer Stanislav Babic to collect the award, although she was not on the jury list of potential awardees.

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