German Appeals Court Upholds 'Das Boot' Suit, Increases Compensation for Cameraman

Das Boot
Bavaria Film

83-year-old cinematographer Jost Vacano wins more nearly $700,000 in compensation, including interest, and will share in the future profits from the Oscar-nominated war drama.

The Munich high court this week has upheld an earlier decision to award Oscar-nominated cameraman Jost Vacano compensation for his work on Wolfgang Petersen's anti-war classic Das Boot.

The court said Vacano, 83, should be paid nearly $700,000 in additional compensation for his share of revenues earned by the movie during the period from 2002-2014. In addition, Vacano will receive a 2.25 percent share of all future Das Boot earnings.

Vacano, who enjoyed Hollywood success with director Paul Verhoeven, lensing films such as Robocop, Showgirls and Total Recall, was initially paid a flat fee of around €100,000 for his work on the 1982 feature and was not given a share of future profits. But in 2002, the German government, changed the law, adding a so-called “best-seller” clause, allowing people to sue if their initial compensation was “conspicuously misappropriate” to the ultimate financial success of a project.

Vacano filed suit, claiming he had a substantial impact in shaping Das Boot. The court agreed and ordered the producers to pay up. The compensation is based on Das Boot earnings from 2002 to 2014. Previous revenue — the film has earned more than $100 million worldwide — was not included in the suit as it fell under earlier copyright law.

Vacano's suit was filed against Das Boot producers Bavaria Film and German public broadcaster WDR, as well as distributor Eurovideo. The high court ruling included compensation of some $177,000 in interest accrued since the lawsuit became pending in 2008, something the initial lower court ruling had denied.