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'Godfather' author heirs, Paramount clash in US

August 30, 2012

In this file photo provided by Paramount Pictures, Marlon Brando is shown in a scene from Paramount Pictures' “The Godfather.” The dispute over the future of “The Godfather” franchise moves to federal court in New York as Paramount Pictures and heirs of the story’s author face off at a hearing Thursday, Aug. 30, 2012. -AP Photo

NEW YORK: The future of ''The Godfather'' franchise moved to court Thursday as the son of creator Mario Puzo wants a judge to end Paramount Pictures' rights to make future films.    

Lawyers for Anthony Puzo said in court papers that the company breached its contract when it tried in December to stop publication of ''The Family Corleone,'' a ''Godfather'' sequel that was published in May.

Paramount, which is owned by Viacom Inc., sued the late author's estate in March, seeking a declaration that it automatically owned book publishing rights for any book that was a sequel to ''The Godfather.''

Paramount said in court papers that in 1969, it purchased from Puzo all rights and copyright interests in ''The Godfather,'' including all ''literary'' rights and rights to use any characters created for the story in ''other works.'' Mario Puzo died in 1999.

Paramount said the only right left to the Puzo estate was the right to publish the original novel ''The Godfather'' and to publish versions and adaptations.

But the estate's lawyers disagree. They said the agreement excluded book publication rights from the rights that Paramount could acquire.

The estate asked the court to declare that the estate owns the book publishing rights to any sequel, that Paramount cannot prevent the estate from publishing the book and that Paramount does not automatically have film rights to new books.