Music publishers for composer Igor Stravinsky filed suit yesterday in N.Y. Federal Court against the Walt Disney Co., over the inclusion of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” in videocassette copies of “Fantasia.”
Boosey & Hawkes Music Publishers is seeking unspecified damages, “believed to be in excess of $ 100 million,” according to the publisher’s attorney, Jody Pope of Carro, Spanbock, Kaster & Cuiffo.
The suit is similar to one filed last May in Pennsylvania by the Philadelphia Orchestra Assn., which is seeking more than $ 60 million in proceeds from the sale of “Fantasia” vidcassettes and laserdiscs.
The Orchestra’s suit, which is working its way through the court dockets, centers around conductor Leopold Stokowski’s agreement with Disney in January 1939 to work in collaboration on the film.
Stravinsky granted a license to Disney that same year for use of the music in a motion picture, reserving all other rights to himself. “He never granted them permission to include the music in a videocassette,” Pope declared.
The suit is also seeking revocation of the 1939 agreement because Disney’s action represents “a substantial breach of contract,” according to Pope.
Copyright infringement damages outside the United States are also being sought.
Disney had no immediate comment, but according to the suit, the company’s reply to an initial complaint by Boosey & Hawkes indicated that Disney believed the 1939 license covered videocassette releases.
Disney’s Buena Vista Home Video subsid released “Fantasia”–including the 22 -minute segment of “Rite”–on cassette in 1991. It became one of the most successful vid releases ever, reportedly earning more than $ 220 million.
“The Rite of Spring,” composed in 1913, was originally presented as a ballet in two parts. Stravinsky conveyed all rights of copyright to Boosey & Hawkes in 1947.