ZINNEMANN'S SON SUING OVER COLORIZED 'CROSS'

David Robb 12/17/1999
The son of legendary director Fred Zinnemann is expected to file a lawsuit against an Italian TV station today in the Civil Court of Rome, for broadcasting a colorized version of his father's classic 1944 World War II drama "THE SEVENTH CROSS." 
 
The TV station –Telemontecarlo -was notified this week that the suit would be filed by Tim Zinnemann, who claims that the broadcasting of a colorized version of the black-and-white film violated his father's "moral rights." Fred Zinnemann, who died in 1997, was an ardent foe of colorizing.
 
When the station broadcast a colorized version of "THE SEVENTH CROSS" in on May 26, 1996, Fred Zinnemann fired off a salvo of letters demanding that the station "recognize that they violated my 'moral rights' and publicly apologize in the press." He also wanted the TV station to pledge that they "will respect the moral rights of audiovisual authors -- writers and directors -- in the future."
 
Zinnemann, however, got no apology and no pledge. Instead, the TV station re-broadcast the colorized movie only four months after Zinneman’s death.
 
His son has now decided to take up his father's fight for "moral rights" of filmmakers.
 
In his lawsuit, Tim Zinnemann said that his father "called the process of colorization 'an abomination' and ‘an affront to civilization’" and that, as his father's only heir, he "retains the rights on the film's economic utilization and can claim the paternity and the integrity of his artwork, opposing every manipulation, mutilation or other modification, and every act that damages said artwork, that may be detrimental to his honor and his reputation."
 
The lawsuit is similar to a suit that the heirs of director John Huston brought in in 1988, after a French TV station broadcast a colorized version of "THE ASPHALT JUNGLE." Huston's heirs won the suit in 1994 when the court of appeal in Versailles ruled that no colorized black-and-white film may be broadcast in against the wishes of the film's "author."
 
Turner Entertainment, which colorized "THE ASPHALT JUNGLE," was fined $74,000, and the French TV station that broadcast it was ordered to pay $37,000.
 
Turner also colorized "THE SEVENTH CROSS," but is not named as a defendant in the Zinnemann suit.
 
A director's "moral rights" -- which protect a film from unauthorized changes that are considered damaging to the honor and reputation of the filmmaker -- are guaranteed under the Berne Treaty, the international standard for copyright protection.
 
"Moral rights" are honored in many European countries, but not by the , which signed the Berne Treaty in 1988 but which insists that "moral rights" are not applicable here.
 
The Berne Treaty extends "moral rights" to the "author" of a motion picture. In Europe, a film's director, writer and cinematographer are considered the film's "authors," but in the , the copyright holder -- and not the director, writer or cinematographer -- is considered the film's "author."
 
MGM's "THE SEVENTH CROSS" was acquired by the Turner Entertainment Group in 1985 and was one of the many black-and-white films that Turner had colorized.
 
Zinnemann, who also directed "HIGH NOON" and "FROM HERE TO ETERNITY" -- both shot in black-and-white -- appeared before Congress in 1988 to urge it to adopt "moral rights" legislation.
 
"You must know by now," he told Congress, "that many American moviemakers have an enormous grievance about the way their work is mutilated and their reputations damaged, without any chance whatsoever to put up a legal defense. It is difficult to imagine that this can happen in a civilized country."
 
Zinnemann told the lawmakers that "there exist laws which protect all sorts of work by all sorts of artists: writers, painters, composers, sculptors, photographers. Why are filmmakers not protected in the same way? Films are not just the property of the copyright holder. They are part of our heritage. Future generations must have the right to see them in the original form. If they have been tampered with, their title should be changed as they are no longer the same films."
 
Filmmakers, he testified, "are asking you to respect our moral rights by giving us a strong federal law so that we can challenge injustice in the courts of this country. We ask you to do it soon, before film as an art form has been destroyed."
 
His plea fell on deaf ears. No legislation was passed to allow him to sue Turner under law. But under Italian law, his son can sue the Italian TV stations that aired the colorized movie.
 
Tim Zinnemann's suit is being supported by the Artists Rights Foundation, which also backed Huston in his legal battle .
 
Artists Rights Foundation attorney Arnold Lutzker said that it is "ironic" that American directors have to sue in Europe to protect rights they do not enjoy in their own country.
 
"American directors have to go off-shore into a foreign country to get protections for rights that they cannot get in the US," he said. "The sad irony of this is that the integrity and authenticity of an American director's film is more likely to be protected in a foreign country than in the director's home country."
 
Artists Rights Foundation president Elliot Silverstein said that the lawsuit "is another step in the campaign to protect the work of artists and to ultimately achieve the recognition of moral rights for film artists."
 
 
The Hollywood Reporter

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