The Battle Over Watchmen Rights

Who watches Watchmen? It won’t be you, if 20th Century Fox has its way (at least not until Fox gets a taste of Warner Bros.’ action).


In February, 20th Century Fox sued Warner Bros. over the rights to the DC Comics Watchmen franchise — insisting that Fox still had a claim on Watchmen after failing to develop the graphic novel into a film.


Fox sought an injunction to stop production until the rights dispute was cleared. But, these big court cases can drag, and director Zack Snyder hustled Watchmen along — getting a three-hour first cut of the film in the can before any legal action could be taken.


A federal court in Los Angeles on Monday refused to dismiss the Fox lawsuit — meaning Fox can proceed with an attempt to shut down Snyder’s movie in court. The ruling offered no comment on the quality of Fox’s case or its potential for success, but clearly the judge found enough merit in the rights claim to let Fox’s lawyers take it up a notch.


Does Fox really want to kill Watchmen? Or, is there another endgame here?


Such legal wrangling seems inevitable when you consider Watchmen has been in development at Fox, Warner Bros. or elsewhere since 1986. That means a lot of producers, development executives and writers pinned a bloody smiley-face button to their chests at one time or another.


Since Fox would seem to gain nothing from killing Snyder’s movie besides vengeful glee, what is the studio really after? Or, the better question might be, “What are they always after?”


Dinah Perez, a Hollywood-based entertainment attorney, said Watchmen fans have no reason to panic: “Fox has no financial risk here in a movie that could produce revenues for it. As such, I doubt that Fox is going to force Warner Bros. to shelve the movie.


“In all likelihood, a settlement will be reached whereby Warner Bros. gets to distribute the movie, and Fox gets a piece of the action.”


Peter Woodke, a contract attorney working out of the San Francisco Bay Area, agreed: “I assume Fox is playing hardball to extract as much money as they can from the project, but I can’t imagine the movie itself would be blocked. I don’t know what the evidence is, but it sounds like the individual producers are at the crux of the matter.”


While both counselors see a possible Rorschach-rescuing resolution, it won’t come quickly or easily.


“The bad news is that it’s going to be an arduous process,” Perez said. “The good news is that Fox and Warner Bros. have until March 2009 (Watchmen’s current release date) to figure it out and come to a settlement.” (From Wired)


Published by Larry Fire

I write an eclectic pop culture blog called THE FIRE WIRE that features articles about books, comics, music, movies, television, gadgets, posters, toys & more!

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