Golden Globes Legal Battle Heats Up As Both Sides Lay Out Arguments

Golden Globes Red Carpet Prep 2011
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Zach Williams touches up signs on the red carpet outside the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California in preparation for the upcoming Golden Globe Awards January 16, 2010.  The 67th Annual Golden Globe Awards take place on January 17, 2010.

In the escalating legal battle over TV rights to the Golden Globe Awards, both the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and Dick Clark Productions have filed motions for summary judgment, each claiming that the court should immediately find in their favor in the on-going dispute.

In filings late Monday to U.S. District Court Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank, both sides continued their now familiar claims based on how they interpret a series of contracts between the group representing foreign press based in Los Angeles and the production company that is now owned by a company controlled by Daniel Snyder, who also owns a controlling interest in the Washington Redskins football team.

The key question in the legal battle is whether the contracts signed by the HFPA essentially granted Dick Clark the right to produce the show in perpetuity, as long as it continued to air on NBC.

The HFPA says there is no such thing as perpetuity and it has the right to end the association with Dick Clark and seek another producer beginning with the next show, scheduled for January 2012.

Dick Clark says under contract law it has such a right, and that the HFPA must live with the deal that was made, despite grumbling by the current members and leadership about the terms and duration.

“DCP claims that a 1993 contract with the HFPA awarded it perpetual rights to produce and license the Globes for broadcast on any terms DCP wants so long as the Globes continue to be aired on NBC,” the HFPA attorney Linda J. Smith writes in a statement issued Tuesday. “The HFPA’s motion relies on a tape recording of the 1993 presentation DCP executives made when they asked the HFPA membership to approve that transaction, as well as admissions by DCP executives that they knew the HFPA could not enter into a contract the membership had not approved. A transcript of the recording shows that DCP asked only for options for eight Golden Globes shows (subsequently extended through 2011), not the self-renewing options DCP now claims to have received.

“This means that even if the HFPA president signed a contract that might be construed as perpetual (a conclusion unsupported by any fair reading of the contract), under settled principles of agency law the agreement is not enforceable against the HFPA,” continues Smith, “because DCP’s rights ran out after last January's Golden Globes show, the HFPA has asked the Judge to declare the contract and its relationship with dcp at an end.”

Dick Clark, meanwhile, shoots back in it’s filing: “HFPA has reaped enormous financial and other benefits from DCP’s expertise and commitment of resources over the last 28 years. Now, however, HFPA asks the Court to undo the bargain it struck with DCP years ago, and, in so doing, to void the most recent extension of NBC’s license to broadcast the Golden Globe Awards show for seven years, beginning in 2012.”

The reference to an NBC renewal refers to a seven-year deal Dick Clark negotiated late last year to extend the broadcast rights through 2018, a deal the HFPA says was done without its knowledge or consent, in violation of its rights as the owner of the well-known awards show.

“The novel (and ever-changing) legal theories HFPA has marshaled in support of its lawsuit lack any merit,” continues Dick Clark in its legal filing. “This Court should grant DCP’s motion for summary judgment and reject HFPA’s attempt to get out of its deal with DCP.”

To support its position, Dick Clark also included in its filing legal declarations supporting its position from former HFPA president Mirjana Van Blaricom, former Dick Clark president Francis LaMaina and former Dick Clark legal counsel Joel Behr.

Dick Clark claims that it stepped in and saved the show back in the 1980s when it suffered from low ratings and there was controversy about the way the HFPA operated. The HFPA says that whatever Dick Clark did, it was compensated, and HFPA has the right to do with the show what it wishes.

The next hearing in the case is August 1, and a trial is expected as soon as September. If that happens, it is expected a ruling will come in time for the HFPA to either work out its deal with Dick Clark or find a new producer and possibly a new network. If the case drags out, the HFPA and Dick Clark could agree to do the next show together while the legal battle continues.