COPENHAGEN — Sydney Pollack took the stand Monday as the key witness in an unusual creative-rights case brought before the Danish Court here by the Danish Directors Guild.
In a courtroom packed with press and local film people, Pollack testified in the suit filed in 1991 against national pubcaster DRTV for airing a panned-and-scanned version of the 1975 Paramount film “Three Days of the Con-dor,” which he directed.
The essence of the disagreement is whether DRTV had the right to air the widescreen movie in a panned-and-scanned version, losing more than 50% of the image.
During the day, a number of examples from “Three Days of the Condor” was shown to illustrate how the movie had been altered.
Much of the testimony was about technicalities and measurements, but the Danish lawyers and judges also got a chance to learn something about moviemaking.
In the U.S., there would be no dispute, because Pollack signed a contract with Dino De Laurentiis waiving all rights. But in Denmark and a number of other European countries, he is protected from violation of his “droit mo-rale” — moral rights — or in other words, actions that may affect his reputation as an author and artist.
“I was very touched when I first heard they would pursue this case. I didn’t tell them to do it, and I think it’s very brave,” Pollack told Daily Variety.
That right is distinctly protected in Danish copyright law, which states: “A work must not be altered or made pub-lic in a way or context that is offending to the creators’ literary or artistic reputation or style.”
DRTV VP, international department, Finn Rowold wouldn’t comment on the trial, but said DRTV always strives to get as close to the original version as possible.
Before the session began, Pollack told Daily Variety, “The court case, no matter what the outcome, is real progress. It’s the first time in the world a sovereign country has sat in session and heard about pan-and-scan.”
Panning-and-scanning is only one of the areas in which the Danish Directors Guild has fought for artists rights. In 1990 it stopped another Danish TV station from airing a colorized version of John Ford’s “The Asphalt Jungle.”
“We have been fighting against these violations since 1989, when the U.S. joined the Berne Convention and made it possible,” guild general secretary Ebbe Preisler said.
The proceedings end today, with the verdict expected in February.