January 22

People & Entertainment: ‘Raging Bull’ copyright claim gets Supreme Court attention

At issue is who owns boxer Jake LaMotta’s life story.

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court was pondering Tuesday whether the daughter of the man whose work was the basis of the Oscar-winning movie “Raging Bull” should go another round with a major movie studio over copyright infringement for ownership of boxer Jake LaMotta’s life story.

The “Raging Bull” case involves an appeal from Paula Petrella, the daughter of Frank Petrella, whose written work inspired the movie. Frank Petrella collaborated with his friend LaMotta on two screenplays and a book, which were used to make the movie directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Robert DeNiro. The 1980 film won two Oscars, including best actor for DeNiro.

The elder Petrella died in 1981, with his copyrights reverting to his daughter. She sued Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. for copyright infringement for creating and distributing copies of the movie, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said she waited too long before filing her lawsuit. Now she wants justices to resurrect her lawsuit.

The studio’s lawyer suggested that Petrella delayed on purpose in hopes of getting more on money, saying she waited until after the 25th anniversary of the movie in 2005 to press her claim.

“What happened there is the plaintiff ... had a part interest in the gold mine, sat around and waited until somebody else developed it enough to make a profit and then rushed in and demanded a share,” said lawyer Mark A. Perry.

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