“Godfather” sequel proceeds on hold during Puzo litigation

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Paramount Pictures and the estate of author Mario Puzo are at odds over the publishing rights of the third book to follow the blockbuster novel, “The Godfather.” Each party has filed a lawsuit, starting with litigation initiated last February by Paramount and followed in March by a countersuit filed by Anthony Puzo, the late author’s son and executor.

The movie studio, owned by Viacom Inc., is reluctant to give up its perceived rights to a novel that kicked off one of the most successful and lucrative movies series of all time. Paramount wanted to halt this month’s publication of “The Family Corleone,” the third Godfather sequel. Studio officials said the book’s release violated a contractual agreement the studio had with Mario Puzo that gave Paramount, not the author’s estate, permission to authorize Godfather sequels.

Anthony Puzo contends Paramount breached its contract with his father, who died in 1999. The estate maintains that the author’s agreement, signed more than four decades ago with the movie company, excluded publication rights to follow-up novels. An attorney for the author’s son told a federal court that Anthony Puzo wanted the Paramount contract canceled.

Paramount company officials stated they gave permission in 2004 for the Random House publication of the first Godfather sequel, “The Godfather Returns.” Two years later, according to the studio’s court filing, a second sequel called “The Godfather’s Revenge” hit bookstands without Paramount’s authorization. Puzo’s estate notified Paramount in 2011 that it was planning to publish the third sequel penned by Ed Falco this year. Grand Central Publishing went ahead with the release of “The Family Corleone” in early May.

The movie studio and the author’s son agreed that the novel could be made public as long as the book’s proceeds were escrowed, until the publishing rights issue came to resolution. Attorneys for both parties are hoping to resolve the intellectual property rights through mediation.

Source: Bloomberg, “‘The Godfather,’ Anti-Piracy: Intellectual Property,” Ellen Rosen, May 14, 2012