Earlier this week, there came news about a sequel to the Frank Capra classic It’s A Wonderful Life being in development, and predictably and understandably that lead to a lot of complaints and criticisms of the idea burning up bandwidth. It turns out that all that angst may have been premature as Variety is reporting that Paramount Pictures, who own the distribution and sequel rights to It’s A Wonderful Life, have not been contacted by the producers of the new project to secure permission yet.
The trade quoted a studio spokesperson as saying –
No project relating to It’s a Wonderful Life can proceed without a license from Paramount. To date, these individuals have not obtained any of the necessary rights, and we would take all appropriate steps to protect those rights.
But producers Allen J. Schwalb and Bob Farnsworth don’t see things quite the same way. As Farnsworth told Variety –
We have spent a lot of time, money and research that leads us to believe that we are clear on any infractions of the copyright. If anyone feels that have a legal claim, we will be happy to talk with them. I believe that whatever resolution needs to be made will be made amicably, in the positive spirit of the project.
This is shaping up to be yet another chapter in the long, messy history of the copyright surrounding the film. Based on a 1939 short story, “The Greatest Gift,” It’s a Wonderful Life was released in 1946. However, a clerical error in failing to renew the film’s copyright allowed the film to slip partially into the public domain. As Republic Picture, the film’s owner at the time, still retained rights to the original short story, television stations airing the film still had to pay royalties on that. But in the 1990s, Republic argued successfully in court that since the film was based on that short story that they owned the rights to, it was technically a derivative work and fully covered by their ownership of said story. The court agreed and the film was brought back out of the public domain. Paramount subsequently acquired Republic, and with it, the rights to the film.
Given that the 1990s court case concerning the film’s rights has been seen as pretty definitive and has gone unchallenged for two decades, it should be interesting to see what claim the producers think they have to proceed with their plans.