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Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.

Defended copyright infringement claim relating to the Academy Award-winning motion picture, Raging Bull. Obtained summary judgment in federal district court, affirmed by Ninth Circuit, on the defense of laches. After Supreme Court ruling holding that laches does not apply as a complete bar to copyright infringement claims, the case was remanded to the district court to analyze alternative grounds for dismissal. After remand, filed motion for summary judgment on grounds of lack of substantial similarity and estoppel and the case was settled shortly after the filing of the motion for summary judgment.
In a decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, Loeb & Loeb LLP was victorious in protecting the rights to the film Raging Bull on behalf of its clients Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment (Fox). In Petrella v. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., et al., Paula Petrella, the daughter of a co-author of written works about the life of Jake LaMotta, sued Loeb’s clients, claiming that the continued exploitation of the film Raging Bull constituted copyright infringement of her father’s written works. After he retired, Boxer Jake LaMotta and his friend Peter Petrella collaborated on two unpublished screenplays and an autobiography titled Raging Bull: My Story. Peter Petrella was credited as co-author of the book and as the sole author of one of the two unpublished screenplays. LaMotta and Petrella assigned their rights in the book and the screenplays to a production company, and ultimately the production company produced the highly acclaimed motion picture Raging Bull. In 1991 the Plaintiff, daughter of Peter Petrella, sought legal counsel and renewed her father’s copyright interest in a 1963 screenplay that she claims was infringed by the continued distribution of the movie Raging Bull. In 2009, Petrella sued MGM and Fox in the Central District of Los Angeles for copyright infringement based on continued distribution of the film. The Defendants filed summary judgment on a number of grounds, including because they had rights from LaMotta to his life story, and to the autobiographical book and screenplays that LaMotta co-authored. The Defendants also moved to dismiss the case based on the 18-year delay from the time the Plaintiff learned of her potential claim until she filed her lawsuit in 2009. The District Court ruled that laches barred the Plaintiff’s suit and dismissed the case. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal based on laches, holding that the Plaintiff had unreasonably delayed in filing suit, and that the defendants were prejudiced by that delay.