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The Butler title dispute settled

2013-07-23 21:15
The Butler
New York - The Motion Picture Association of America has settled the roiling dispute between Harvey Weinstein and Warner Bros over the use of the title The Butler.

In a ruling on Friday night, the MPAA's Title Registration Bureau said the Weinstein Co could not go forward with the title for its upcoming Lee Daniels' White House drama. In the MPAA's title registry, Warner Bros reserves the rights to the title due to a so-named 1916 short.

But the Weinstein Co. will be allowed to use the title Lee Daniels' The Butler, which the company said it would switch to immediately. The MPAA stipulated that the letters in "Lee Daniels" must be at least 75% the size of The Butler.

Weinstein ordered to pay $400k

Weinstein took his case public in recent weeks, leading to one of the more visible Hollywood clashes in recent years, if over a relatively minor squabble. Weinstein had argued that Warner Bros was attempting to extort from him his percentage of The Hobbit, the three-part franchise Warner Bros is releasing. Warner Bros, in turn, claimed that Weinstein continually flouted the protocol of the title registry.

Friday's decision settled an appeal from the Weinstein Co after an arbitration ruling earlier in the month.

For violating the MPAA's earlier ruling, the Weinstein Co was ordered to pay $400 000 to the Entertainment Industry Foundation and $150 000 to Warner Bros in legal fees. Increased fines will be added if the Weinstein Co doesn't halt all trailers and advertisements using The Butler by Friday.

Though titles can't be copyrighted, a certain number of Hollywood titles are protected by the Title Registration Bureau. The Weinstein Co and Warner Bros voluntarily subscribe to the registry, agreeing to be bound by its rules to prevent public confusion over similarly titled films.

In a statement on Monday, Weinstein said he was "thrilled this has all come to an end."

The film stars Forest Whitaker as a White House butler whose service spanned decades of US presidents. It's to be released August 16.

- AP

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