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Paramount Pictures has made an offer to the Mario Puzo estate that couldn’t be refused.
Thanks to an agreement between the parties, a new Godfather-based book will be coming out. The deal doesn’t end a nasty dispute between the parties, but each has seen the wisdom of allowing onto the marketplace a book titled The Family Corleone that is expected to detail Vito Corleone’s rise to power in Depression-era New York.
In February, Paramount sued the Puzo estate, alleging that it had a copyright interest in Puzo’s famed novel, The Godfather, and an agreement that granted “the sole and exclusive right to make and cause to be made literary and dramatic and other versions and adaptations of every kind and character.”
The studio had alleged that prior “sequel novels” had tarnished the legacy over the Godfather franchise and that it was promised in writing that there would be no more literary sequels.
The Puzo estate responded in March by seeking a termination of a grant to Paramount over The Godfather. In counterclaims, it was alleged that Paramount breached a 1967 rights agreement that purportedly expressly excluded and reserved “book publishing rights” for Puzo, who died in 1999.
The two sides are still very much at war, but Richard Kendall, the attorney representing Paramount, tells The Hollywood Reporter that a deal has been struck for the book to come out.
“I informed the judge during the hearing today that Paramount and the Puzo estate reached an interim agreement, pending resolution of the litigation, that permits publication of the sequel entitled The Family Corleone but escrows all funds already received or to be received by the Puzo estate in connection with that book,” says Kendall.
Money will be put aside until the parties reach either a final determination in the case or strike a larger settlement agreement.
The latter course appears unlikely at the moment.
Just three days ago, Paramount submitted a motion to dismiss two of the estate’s counterclaims with prejudice. The studio argues that termination of the Godfather rights is a “radical remedy,” that there is no basis in law in allowing that to happen and that even if the counterclaims stand up, monetary damages would suffice. Paramount also says that the estate hasn’t met the burdens of pleading a fundamental breach of the parties’ agreement.
Bert Fields, attorney for the Puzo estate, says his clients were backed into making the deal to hold aside profits from the book.
“The deal is very interim and in no way takes away the sting of what Paramount did,” he says. “Paramount extorted this by threatening to shut down the publication unless we agreed to do this. Paramount has violated the most basic rights in Puzo’s contract — that he was reserving all book publishing rights.”
The attorney adds: “I think what Paramount is doing is outrageous. This is the guy who saved the studio.”
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