Legal contest over 'Tracy' rights will continue

Warren Beatty’s long battle with the Tribune Co. over the rights to “Dick Tracy” will continue now that a federal judge has refused to dismiss the actor-director’s lawsuit over ownership of the classic comicbook character.

But U.S. District Court Judge Dean D. Pregerson, in a filing last week, also refused to sanction the Tribune Co. for seeking to have the case thrown out, as Beatty had sought. Beatty directed and starred in the 1990 version of “Dick Tracy” after Tribune assigned the rights to him.

The latest dispute centers on whether Beatty still had rights to the character. Beatty received notice from Tribune Co. on Nov. 20, 2006, that it would take back the rights unless he commenced production on a new Dick Tracy project within two years. Beatty says that he started principal photography on a television special Nov. 8, 2008, but Tribune Co. responded by stating that it still had the right to terminate Beatty’s rights to the character.

The case was complicated by the fact that Tribune Co. filed for bankruptcy protection on Dec. 8, 2008, but a Delaware bankruptcy judge ruled in November that Beatty’s case could go forward.

In his order, Pregerson wrote that “there is a substantial controversy between the parties warranting the issuance of a declaratory judgment.” But he also rejected Beatty’s request that Tribune Co. be penalized because his effort “for declaratory relief is not a model of clarity.”

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