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Blame it on Rio: Columbia Pics in Copyright Fight with Rio Church

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on March 17, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The archdiocese of the Catholic Church in Rio de Janeiro is rather upset. It seems that Columbia Pictures did not receive their permission to use the image of the huge statue of "Christ the Redeemer," the iconic image of the city of Rio, in its blockbuster disaster movie 2012, out last November. The Church claims it turned down the request by the studio to license the copyright of the statue for use in the film and is not quite ready to forgive Columbia's trespass against it.

According to THR, Esq., the attorney for the Rio archdiocese, Claudine Dutra, claims that it holds the copyright in the statute created in 1931 by French sculptor Paul Landowski for the Church. Landowski passed away in 1961. Like U.S. copyright law, Brazilian law allows the copyright to continue for a set period after the death of the creator and to be held by his estate or heirs. Under Brazilian law, the copyright may extend 70 years after the death of the creator of the work. Since Landowski's death, the archdiocese claims they hold the copyright on the statue until 2013.

Columbia Pictures, for its part, said it did get a license, and coincidently, from someone who did not mind the movie showing the statue of Christ being destroyed by a giant wave. A studio rep told THR that believing in good faith that the copyright was held by the estate of Landowski, they sought and were granted permission for the use of the image from the Artists Rights Society, who represents the estate of the sculptor.

It may take a miracle, legal or otherwise, to conclude the dispute. Despite the fact that negotiations have been ongoing since December, the Church has made no move to file a claim against the studio. However, the archdiocese does seek a show of contrition. "We want Columbia Pictures to publicly declare that it did not intend to cause offense," Dutra said. If they are the true copyright holder, no doubt the Church would like the studio to put a little something in the collection plate as well. 

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