'Funny Face' Case Claims Ownership Of Dance Scene Is No Laughing Matter

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'Funny Face' Case Claims Ownership Of Dance Scene Is No Laughing Matter

Fri May 23, 2008 @ 02:29PM PST

Posted by Eriq Gardner

Funnyface Who owns the copyright to the famous dance scene in the 1957 film "Funny Face"? (Here's a pretty good facsimile of it.)

According to the film's director, Stanley Donen, he does.

Represented by Bert Fields, Donen is suing Paramount and The Gap for using a clip of the dance in commercials that aired last year and photos of the scene in print advertisements. What makes this case so unusual is that Donen claims that he "never had a written contract with Paramount regarding 'Funny Face,' and has never conveyed to Paramount his interest in that film."

As strange as it may be that a director would have been hired without a contract, the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles goes on to acknowledge that Paramount registered the copyright in the entirety of "Funny Face," and that they have licensed the film for years to distributors without objection. Donen says "he makes no claim with respect to such distribution, which was intended when the film was made....(but) defendants have now exceeded the uses in which plaintiff acquiesced and plaintiff has strong objection to Paramount's selling the Dance Scene he created..."


We'll wait for more details to come out, but Donen also directed "Singing in the Rain," "On the Town," "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," "Damn Yankees," "The Pajama Game," and other truly classic films. Each represents a valuable part of their respective studio's film libraries. Did Donen have contracts for each of these films, and if not, who really owns them?

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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