Orson Welles wrote, produced, and starred in
Citizen Kane (1941).

The daughter of Orson Welles sued Turner Entertainment to establish her ownership of the copyright in Citizen Kane and her right to distribute home video versions of the epic and for an accounting.  The district court granted summary judgment against her.  The Ninth Circuit upheld summary judgment on her copyright claim but otherwise reversed. Welles v. Turner Entertainment Co., No. 05-55742 (9th Cir. May 30, 2007).

The interesting part of the decision deals with the question of whether a grant in 1939 of "motion picture and television" rights in the Citizen Kane screenplay necessarily encompassed a right to exploit the screenplay in a home video format.  The court held that the Production Agreement alone didn’t answer the question, not least because home video didn’t exist in 1939.  Because the extrinsic evidence conflicted on the meaning of "motion picture and television", the court reversed the summary judgment for defendants.

Barry Barnett

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