'Dukes' flees court case

For a little while, at least, a federal judge told Warner Bros. to cancel the release of “The Dukes of Hazzard” and impound any copies of the film.

Preliminary injunction was issued last Friday in a suit brought by producer Robert B. Clark. Warners bought TV rights to his obscure 1975 film “Moonrunners” when the studio originally made the “Hazzard” TV skein.

Clark alleged nothing in the original 1978 contract gave Warners the right to also make a movie. In issuing such a far-reaching order, Judge Gary Allen Feess agreed.

“Plaintiffs have shown a likelihood that they will be able to prove at trial that they have an ownership interest in ‘The Dukes of Hazzard’ film,” Feess wrote.

Suit has since been settled, but legal sources not involved in the case said Warners likely paid a pretty penny to settle.

Marc Toberoff, who represented the plaintiffs, said, “The parties have reached a settlement of all claims in the litigation. The terms of that settle-ment are confidential.”

Warners spokeswoman Stacy Ivers said, “The suit has been settled.”

In his decision, Feess directed pointed comments at the Warners legal department. Studio had claimed that the plaintiffs had waited too long before filing their lawsuit. “The Court,” Feess wrote, “finds it a little ironic that Warner Bros., with a staff of lawyers and possession of voluminous materials specifically describing the limitations on the rights it obtained in ‘The Moonrunners,’ complains that the writers who were cut out of the current project should have given earlier notice of their copyright claim.”

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