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Judge urges Dick Clark, HFPA to settle

Closing arguments in case set for Friday

Testimony ended on Tuesday in the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s suit against Dick Clark Prods. over the rights to the Golden Globes, with a federal judge urging both sides to come to a settlement before he renders a decision.

“I have sat here every day of the trial puzzled at why what should be such a clear path to settlement doesn’t work,” said U.S. District Judge Howard Matz.

While he complimented both legal teams for an “exemplary job,” he indicated that if no settlement is reached he would make a decision where “someone is going to lose.” And he suggested that it was personalities, more than anything else, that prevented a settlement. He cited testimony from DCP CEO Mark Shapiro, who was asked at one point why no agreement could be reached, “It was because of the people in the room or the lack of people in the room.”

Both sides will return on Friday for guidance on closing arguments.

The HFPA sued DCP in November, 2010, claiming its longtime producer entered into a new broadcast deal with NBC without getting its approval. DCP claims it does not need it, citing an “extensions” clause in a 1993 agreement giving it the rights to produce the show as long as it landed a deal with the Peacock network.

Earlier in the day, deposition testimony from Dick Clark was read in open court. Clark did not testify in open court, but in his deposition he was asked whether DCP needed to get the HFPA’s approval when DCP extended its NBC deal in 2001.

“I would assume they had to agree,” Clark said.

But asked whether he knew whether the HFPA actually approved the deal, he said, “I have no idea.”

An expert witness for DCP, business affairs exec Susan Brooks, testified that it was “very common” for a “perpetuity” arrangement in which a rightsholder grants rights to a party in which they can continue to exercise options as long as they continue to exploit the property.

But Daniel Petrocelli, representing the HFPA, asked how often specific “extensions” clauses like the HFPA-DCP agreement appeared in other programming contracts. Outside of talent agency agreements, Brooks said she could not cite specific examples.

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