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Will Warner Bros. Delay the Release of “Watchmen”?

WatchmenWarner Bros. is set to release the film “Watchmen” on March 6, 2009 despite a recent district court decision that ruled in favor of Twentieth Century Fox (Fox) having intellectual property rights in the film.  Fox acquired the rights to the popular but dark-themed graphic novel “Watchmen” in 1986.  Fox then conveyed those rights to a company controlled by Lawrence Gordon, the films producer, but maintained the right to distribute the first film based on the novel.

Fox has sought an injunction against Warner to prevent the release of the film, however a judge is set to issue a decision on the matter on January 20th where he will also consider whether Warner has to pay any damages to Fox if they release the film.

Under 17 U.S.C 103 of U.S. copyright law, the owner of a copyright has the right to reproduce and make derivative works of an original work.  In this case Fox owned a copyright to make the first film based off of the Watchmen graphic novel.  The film is a derivative work and therefore Fox should be entitled to damages.  An injunction is unlikely as Warner Bros. already has invested $120 Million in creating the film.  A delay in release would provide no benefits to either party as no money would be earned from the project.  I would expect the parties to reach a settlement decision before the January 20th ruling.  If no settlement is reached Fox will most likely be entitled to share in the profits from the film as a damages award.

Here is a link to the Watchman movie trailer:

UPDATE – Warner Bros. and Fox have settled their dispute –


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