1956 Games footage belongs to Aussie Olympic committee

SYDNEY — American sports film company the Big Fights has lost an Australian court tussle in which it claimed copyright over films of the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.

Federal Court judge Kevin Lindgren found that although Peter Whitchurch, the deceased head of the 1956 Olympics film unit, had non-exclusive rights to reprint and sell copies of edited films, the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) now owned the copyright to the footage, which is valued at more than A$1.1 million ($715,000).

Family affair

Lindgren said the litigation had prompted “the unseemly spectacle” of pitting Whitchurch’s son (funded by the AOC) against his two daughters, who were funded by Big Fights, which claimed to have acquired the footage for less than $65,000.

Welcoming the decision, AOC prexy John Coates said the footage was “the most comprehensive pictorial record of any Olympic Games held up to that time.”

Legal concerns

The decision came just days after the Sydney Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games did an about-face on its decision to revoke an invitation for Japanese and American marching bands to participate in the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics after threats of lawsuits.

The exact nature of the foreigners’ participation in the ceremony and just who will pay the bills for the last two months of legal wrangling is yet to be figured out.

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