Spillane Trial Group Saves Pope Francis’ Favorite Film

Fans of ‘Babette’s Feast’ Will Have Continued Access to The Film in Modern Media

The lawsuit to determine Spillane Trial Group client Josi W. Konski’s copyright ownership of Babette’s Feast, winner of the 1988 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, settled during trial this month. As a result, Konski’s rights to resume and expand upon his re-release of the film in Blu-ray and DVD formats were confirmed.  Konski agreed to pay royalties to the estate of Gabriel Axel, the late director of the film, pursuant to a modified royalty agreement.

Babette’s Feast received recent attention as Pope Francis’s favorite film.  With the settlement, Pope Francis and the film’s other fans will have continued access to the film in modern media.

Konski contended that he had successfully purchased the copyright to Babette’s Feast from the estate of Just Betzer, the late producer of the film, and that his rights to continue to release the film rested on U.S. law.  The Danish Film Directors and Axel contended that the copyright transfer was defective under Danish law.

“The trial began with drama the creators of the film would have appreciated,” noted Jay. “The defendants arrived in court with an entourage of Danish witnesses and copyright law experts. We came armed with the knowledge that U.S. law was the likely victor.  In court, however, we reached a compromise that satisfied both parties. The real winners of this case are the fans of Babette’s Feast.”

Konski acquired the rights to Babette’s Feast in 2007 when he purchased all assets, rights, projects and intellectual property from the estate of Just Betzer, who produced the film. The defendants claimed Axel retained a copyright interest in the film arising from a provision of Danish copyright law that expresses certain “moral rights” for authors of creative works.  Axel had previously contested his rights to certain payments under his directing and writing agreements for Babette’s Feast, including in a 1997 arbitration with Just Betzer, and continued to press Konski for contractual payments, but until recently had never taken the position that he owned a copyright interest in the film.  Konski alleged that it was not until the Danish Film Directors and Axel learned of a new DVD and Blu-ray release of Babette’s Feast that they asserted for the first time that Axel owned a copyright interest in the film under Danish law.

Babette’s Feast tells the story of a political refugee from France who repays the kindness of the two Danish sisters who employ her by using all her winnings from a lottery to cook a sumptuous meal for the sisters and their friends. Washington Times reporter John Hayden listed the film as Number 3 on his list of the top 12 Christian-themed movies, and the film received widespread media attention as the favorite film of Pope Francis.

The case is Konski v. Danish Film Directors, CV 13-02383-ABC (JCx).

For more information about the case, follow these links:

Wall Street Journal: https://blogs.wsj.com/law/2014/05/12/court-fight-over-pope-franciss-favorite-film-ends-with-a-settlement/
The Hollywood Reporter: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/thr-esq/at-trial-dispute-pope-francis-702774