A Manatt team led by Entertainment Litigation Partner John Gatti successfully obtained summary judgment for client Miramax in a hotly contested dispute with photographer Firooz Zahedi concerning copyright ownership of the most iconic film photograph of the past 30 years: Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace from Pulp Fiction. This image was used for the film’s poster and to promote Pulp Fiction throughout the world. The plaintiff claimed he owned the photograph outright and that Miramax received only a limited license to use the image in the movie’s initial release, while Miramax claimed it owned the image as a work for hire by the plaintiff. On November 24, 2021, Judge Dolly M. Gee of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that the plaintiff’s claim of copyright ownership is barred by the statute of limitations. Miramax is free to exploit the image and assert its ownership.
This image has been used by Miramax and its distributors to promote, market and advertise the film as well as in relation to significant merchandising efforts. Manatt also represented all retail distributors in this matter. This decision is expected to impact established standards regarding copyright ownership of photographs taken by hired photographers in the film industry.
The Manatt team representing Miramax also included Associates Lauren Fried and Yasmine Novian.
This case and its judgment in favor of Miramax have received significant media coverage, including by The Hollywood Reporter, New York Post and Law360.