James Bond has been thrilling readers and moviegoers ever since novelist Ian Fleming invented the secret agent 60 years ago. This popularity means the book and movie franchise is one of the most lucrative in history. And, if there is one thing a lucrative entertainment franchise attracts more than fans, it’s litigation.
Recently, the producer and distributor of the James Bond movies announced they had reached a settlement in a series of legal disputes that have gone on for 50 years. Producer Danjaq, LLC, and distributor Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer announced they had reached the settlement with the estate of Kevin McClory, who long argued that Fleming should have given him credit as a co-author.
McClory said that he had given Fleming key ideas that later turned up in the James Bond film and novel “Thunderball.” When the novel was released in 1961 without giving any credit to McClory, he filed suit. The parties reached a settlement in that case before the “Thunderball” film was released four years later. However, the parties continued to argue over intellectual property rights for decades. At one point, a court granted McClory the right to produce his own James Bond films, resulting in the 1983 film “Never Say Never Again,” starring Sean Connery, which hit theaters at roughly the same time as “Octopussy,” another James Bond film starring Roger Moore.
The recent settlement appears to put a rest to the long-running dispute. As part of the settlement, MGM and Danjaq purchased the rights to McClory’s work.
As everyone who works in Florida’s entertainment industry knows, behind all the glitz and glamour is a cutthroat business. Many of the legal issues that come up in this business are the same that come up in any other line of work, but many issues common in entertainment law – such as endorsement deals, intellectual property rights and personality rights – are rare in other industries. They’re also notoriously complicated and full of subtlety. It’s important that those in the entertainment industry have legal representation from professionals who understand entertainment law.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter, “MGM, Danjaq Settle 50-Plus Year Legal Fight Over James Bond Rights,” Eriq Gardner, Nov. 15, 2013