Studios take cases to court overseas

Sub-branches were found guilty of cartel price fixing

Summer is here, and court cases involving the majors are heating up around the world.

In Spain, UIP, Warner Sogefilms and Buena Vista Intl. Spain lodged appeals Tuesday with the country’s Audiencia Nacional, hoping to overturn a E2.4 million ($3 million) fine slapped on each of them for anticompetitive practices.

Sony Pictures Releasing de Espana and Hispano Foxfilm are believe to have followed suit.

The May resolution of Spain’s Tribunal de Defensa de la Competencia found evidence that the four Hollywood subbranches and Warner Sogefilms, a joint venture with Sogecable, were guilty of cartel price-fixing and collusion in release strategies.

The allegation of cartel price-fixing is based on the tribune’s study of the studios’ commercial practices with regard to their biggest releases in 2002.

“Although no legal limitation or rulings exist over a maximum percentage that can be charged, during 2002, all the accused companies charged 60% for the first week on their most commercial films,” the tribune’s 24-page resolution asserted.

Japan ‘Holiday’

Meanwhile, in Japan, a Tokyo District Court ruled Tuesday against Paramount in its suit to halt the sale of cheap Japanese knockoffs of “Roman Holiday,” a perennial favorite with locals.

The court determined the film did not fall under the provisions of the copyright law.

In his ruling, the judge said the 50-year copyright on “Roman Holiday” expired in 2003, before the 2004 law change that extended protection to 70 years.

Par was suing a Japanese company, Fast Trading, for releasing cheap copies of “Roman Holiday,” whose star Audrey Hepburn is still idolized by millions of Japanese and whose films are strong sellers on DVD.

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