Landon v. Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corp.

384 F. Supp. 450 (S.D.N.Y. 1974)



Future damages are often incapable of proof in the context of a continuing conspiracy to violate the antitrust laws, both because a plaintiff is legally injured by each act of the defendants in furtherance of the scheme and because of the complex market analysis involved in the damage calculation.


In 1944, plaintiff entered into an agreement with defendant production company to sell motion picture rights to her book. Almost 30 years after, defendant production company produced 13 films which were broadcast as a weekly serial through defendant television network. Plaintiff brought action against defendants in order to determine whether the agreement authorized defendant production company to produce and exhibit the series through defendant television company. Plaintiff contended that defendants were in violation of the section 1 of the Sherman Act, 15 U.S.C.S. § 1. Plaintiff also argued that the assignment of the renewal copyright was unenforceable for lack of consideration. In fine, she claimed that the 1944 agreement gave the production company the right to produce only motion pictures of feature length intended for first exhibition in movie theaters, and not those intended for first exhibition on television. Both plaintiff and defendants moved for summary judgment.


Does the 1944 agreement authorize the production company to serialize the film in television?




The court granted defendants' motion for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. It was found that the grant clauses in the 1944 agreement are broadly drafted and do not contain or suggest the purported distinction between motion pictures made for first exhibition on television and those made for theater presentation. The broad construction of the phrase "motion picture versions" to include the 1972 series is confirmed by related provisions of the agreement. Defendants did not violate the agreement between the parties or engage in tortious conduct when it truthfully stated that the television series was "based on" the property. Even if plaintiff reserved the right to exhibit motion pictures on television, she did had no right to produce them; the “sole and exclusive” right to pertained to the production company. The only reasonable construction of the 1944 agreement is that Fox was granted the right to make an unlimited number of motion picture versions of the property, without limitation as to length, or place of first exhibition. As for her claim that the assignment of renewal copyright was unenforceable for lack of consideration, the 1944 agreement itself stated that the production company shall pay “$67,500 "in full consideration of the rights herein granted and assigned.” It is settled that both original and renewal copyrights may be assigned in consideration of a single lump sum payment, without allocation.

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