August 09, 2011 11:26am PT by Alex Ben Block
Golden Globes Legal Battle Will Go to Trial
The trial over the rights to the Golden Globe Awards will go forward.
In the case brought by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association against Dick Clark Productions and its owner Red Zone Capital, U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank ruled Tuesday there are issues in dispute which deserve to go in front of a jury beginning August 30.
“There is a triable issue of fact as to whether [the HFPA president at the time] had actual authority to enter an agreement that potentially extended perpetual unilateral options to [Dick Clark Productions],” wrote the judge.
The judge did throw out one of two major claims by the HFPA—that if there was a mistake when the contract was drafted, then it should be fixed. This was the so-called “reformation” request, which is now discarded. The judge ruled that the case would be tried based on the words in the contract, which each side interpret differently.
A lot of the case comes down to eight key words in the contract. Dick Clark says they mean that DCP can produce the show as long as NBC is the network airing the Globes. The HFPA side says there is no such thing as a perpetual contract and DCP's rights have expired.
In a statement, Dick Clark Prods and Red Zone wrote: “We are gratified the judge agreed with us in connection to the reformation claim and we’re looking forward to addressing the remaining factual issues. We firmly believe our position will be vindicated as we were within our contract rights to make the NBC deal. The HFPA knows this all too well and is simply trying to rewrite the contract through litigation.”
The HFPA sees this as a legal victory, as it wants the case to go to trial. In a statement after the ruling, the HFPA wrote: “We look forward to proceeding to trial and vindicating our rights."
The judge also ruled against the HFPA on a request to depose former HFPA president Mirjana Van Blaricom. She was not deposed during the normal “discovery” period when each side took depositions from potential witnesses.
The judge did say that the HFPA can bring a new motion to re-open the discovery process and if granted, could then depose Van Blaricom.
However, that would have to be done quickly as the case is now set to go to trial in Los Angeles federal court on August 30. The trial is expected to take about three weeks for jury selection and to try the case.
A trial that ends in September would mean, subject to appeals, that there will be plenty of time for the HFPA, if successful, to find a new producer and make a new network TV deal for the 2012 Globes, which are scheduled for January. The HFPA has said that CBS is interested in licensing the show for even more money than NBC has offered under the deal with DCP.
If Dick Clark prevails on its claim that its contract is in perpetuity as long as the show stays on NBC, then the Globes would continue on NBC.
Late last year, Dick Clark made a new deal with NBC to air the Globes through 2018 without consulting with the HFPA, which is what triggered the lawsuit.