Firooz Zahedi recently challenged Miramax’s copyright claim to the iconic Pulp Fiction movie poster, which he took in 1994 at his home. A judge has decided that Zahedi waited too long to make this case. And Miramax claimed that he was a work-for-hire photographer and had no rights to the photo.
District Judge Dolly Gee notes, “Where the gravamen of a claim is ownership, the statute of limitations will bar a claim if (1) the parties are in a close relationship and (2) there has been an ‘express repudiation’ of the plaintiff’s ownership claim.”
“Back in the 1990s, when the movie came out, Miramax registered a copyright for the poster. The judge agrees with Zahedi here that this didn’t constitute a repudiation of Zahedi’s ownership claim “because Miramax’s copyright registration could plausibly be understood to cover only the poster, and not the underlying photograph.”
Miramax’s lawyers utilized Zahedi’s stepson’s Instagram to highlight s post made years ago where his son posted, “Happy Birthday to my Stepdad @fitzphoto [emojis] Turns out he didn’t get toy royalties for his famous photo of Uma TM… But at least he has the toy now….”
Zahedi commented, “Thanks… Sometimes it’s best to settle for the little things in life.”
“Zahedi’s receipt in 2015 of an action figure prominently featuring the iconic photo, bearing Miramax’s copyright notice, and failing to credit Zahedi is uncontroverted evidence of his actual knowledge of Miramax’s plain and express repudiation of his ownership,” writes Gee. “While it may be true that Miramax changed its position on its copyright claim over the decades since 1994—Zahedi is correct that Miramax credited Zahedi as the owner of the photograph on the cover of its 1994 script, and the record is not clear at what point Miramax stopped crediting Zahedi—it is clear that Zahedi understood in 2015 that Miramax claimed more rights in the photograph than Zahedi believed it had.”
– Excerpt from an article for The Hollywood Lawyer by Eriq Gardner. Read the full article here.
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