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MAR
12
4 MOS

Famous 1923 Silent Film Sparks Copyright Lawsuit Over a Clock (Exclusive)

The owner of "Safety Last!" says a clock manufacturer didn't do something that Martin Scorsese did.

Dazzling Picture
"Hugo"

Everyone knows that the copyright term is a long one, but perhaps no image captures just how lengthy it is like a scene from the 1923 romantic comedy Safety Last!

The silent film stars Harold Lloyd and has been celebrated as one of the top 100 films ever made by the American Film Institute. The most famous image from the movie is of Lloyd dangling perilously from the hands of a giant clock.

Thanks to the fact that the movie came out in 1923, it is in copyright for 95 years, or until 2018. Had the film been released one year earlier, the film would be in the public domain. Though it wasn't the intention of the filmmakers to express this in the movie, a man hanging from a clock seems appropriate.

We mention this because on Tuesday, Harold Lloyd Entertainment filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Cupecoy Home Fashion Inc., which allegedly has been selling a clock that is "a direct appropriation of the iconic clock scene."

See for yourself. On the left is the the scene from from the 1923 film. On the right is the alleged copyright infringement.

Interestingly, the lawsuit says that the plaintiff has licensed rights to make derivatives of this famous scene to other filmmakers.

"The 1985 blockbuster Back to the Future licensed the rights to create a derivative version of the clock scene when it obtained permission from HLE to feature a scene where star Christopher Lloyd dangled perilously from the hands of a giant clock," says the lawsuit.

The lawsuit adds, "Martin Scorsese's critically acclaimed children's movie Hugo licensed the rights to create a derivative version of the clock scene when it obtained permission from HLE to feature a scene where star Asa Butterfield dangled perilously from the hands of a giant clock."

Now a lawsuit has been filed over a clock from Cupecoy, which advertises itself as a seller of "innovative gift and home accessories suitable for any contemporary interior."

The film industry is now full of "talking pictures," but according to the complaint (read here), not everyone is speaking.

"HLE has attempted to resolve this case short of litigation," says the lawsuit filed by attorney John Tehranian. "After months of efforts on that front, Defendants have gone completely silent and failed to respond to Plaintiff's continuing inquiries and attempts to settle this matter."

E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner