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DEC
10
4 MOS

'Lost' Beatles Film: Sony Music Aims to Stop Lawsuit

A film company is suing for $100 million after its plans for a nationwide release of a 1964 concert documentary got interrupted.

Beatles square P
Apple Corps Ltd.

On May 6, 2006 the Ziegfeld Theater in New York was scheduled to exhibit the documentary The Beatles: The Lost Concert. The plan was to roll the film out to 500 theaters and then license it to television. Then, Screenvision was alerted to a licensing dispute and backed out of the plan. A $100 million lawsuit erupted, forcing Sony/ATV Music Publishing to defend allegations that it had tortiously interfered with the release and committed antitrust violations.

On Monday, Sony/ATV responded to a lawsuit brought by Ace Arts after the company got ahold of a 35-minute tape of a Feb. 11, 1964 Beatles concert at the Coliseum in Washington, D.C.

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According to Sony, a New York judge should dismiss the lawsuit because there's already a pending copyright infringement action in the United Kingdom that will make a determination of the issues in this dispute. Sony adds that the documentary "was lawfully enjoined pursuant to a temporary injunction (the "UK Injunction") issued by the Court in the UK Action, on consent of Ace's principal, Christopher Hunt, preventing the exhibition of the Documentary in the United States."

As The Hollywood Reporter covered when the dispute first hit a U.S. courtroom (before being withdrawn and re-filed in October), Ace says the tape of the footage of the supposedly lost concert is in the public domain since it was first distributed without a copyright notice. (Such notice formalities are no longer required.)

To distribute the film, though, Ace needed a license to synchronize The Beatles' performance of compositions with the visual images in the film. The plaintiff has argued that Sony/ATV was on the path towards making a deal for a license before being pressured by Apple Corp., the entity set up by the original Beatles members, which allegedly was planning its own use of the footage.

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Now, Sony responds, declaring the lawsuit "a transparent exercise in forum shopping" since a legal dispute is already underway in the U.K.

In the motion to dismiss, Sony addresses some of Ace's claims -- such as an antitrust allegation that the music company says fails to delineate a relevant market whose competition has somehow been impacted. Sony also says that its communications with Screenvision were protected as "litigation activity."

Apple Corp. is also named as a defendant and brings its own arguments to the table.

For example, on the public domain issue, Apple makes the point that it is a "red herring" since "whether or not the Videotape fell into the public domain... [that] has no impact on the copyright status of SATV’s underlying Compositions."

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