NEW YORK — Lawyers for Fox News and Paramount Pictures were discussing the possibility of a settlement Tuesday of the dispute in which Fox accused Paramount’s “Entertainment Tonight” of stealing and airing footage of John F. Kennedy Jr. and his family in Hyannisport, Mass.
No deal was imminent late Tuesday, but there was still hope on both sides that a settlement was still possible.
If there is no settlement, Fox News will file a complaint against Paramount in U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York today seeking as much as $200 million in damages.
The complaint, a copy of which was obtained by Daily Variety, posits that an “ET” producer on July 21 twice requested to license the footage from Fox but was rebuffed both times.
After being denied the footage, the complaint alleges that “ET” then stole the footage from Fox Broadcasting’s “Fox Files” and ran 25 seconds of the footage on that night’s “ET.”
According to Fox News, a lawyer for Paramount TV told Fox News senior counsel that “ET” under the “fair use” section 101 of the Copyright Act. Fair use allows news networks to take footage for a breaking story from another news outlet provided it is used within 24 hours.
Fox News maintains that the fair use argument does not apply because the JFK Jr. footage was shot more than a year ago and therefore was not breaking news.
Fox’s complaint also accused “ET” of misleading the public as to the footage’s origin.
“Not content with merely stealing Fox’s copyrighted materials, defendant concocted a bogus news story that the footage was a home video which belonged to Fox correspondent Christopher Cuomo to support its meritless ‘fair use defense,’ ” reads Fox’s complaint. “In order to dress up this flagrantly false allegation that the footage had some from Christopher Cuomo, defendant used a two-year-old video of an interview with Christopher Cuomo speaking about his friendship with JFK Jr.
“The use of this video was embarrassing to Cuomo in that Cuomo was asked by other media organizations to comment publicly on the death of his friend,” continues the complaint. “Cuomo declined all such requests because he felt that speaking with these organizations would be exploiting JFK Jr.’s death.”
According to the complaint, hours before “ET” aired the footage, Paramount TV’s in-house attorney Stephen Sloane said that the show was under the mistaken impression that Fox News had received the JFK Jr. tape from Andrew Cuomo, a Kennedy family member.
When Dianne Brandi, senior counsel for Fox News, notified Sloane it was Christopher Cuomo who was a Fox News correspondent, but that he had not supplied the tape to Fox, Sloane told Brandi that Paramount had “egg on its face.”
Fox News’ complaint seeks $100,000 in damages for each infringement of the alleged copyright violation. Because the “ET” episode in question aired on 205 TV stations, Fox News is seeking more than $200 million.
A Par spokeswoman said the company had no comment.