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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 20:40 GMT
Coppola loses $20m court battle
Francis Ford Coppola
Coppola faces a costly settlement
A long-running court battle has ended with director Francis Ford Coppola $20m (14.3m) out of pocket.

The dispute with Warner Brothers centred on whether or not the studio could claim to have had a deal with Coppola to make a film of Pinocchio.

Coppola won an earlier case in 1998 and was awarded $60m (43m) in damages, later reduced by the trial judge to $20 million (14.3m) - but Warner Bros appealed against the award, as did the director who wanted the higher figure reinstated.

On Tuesday a three-judge panel of California's Court of Appeals ruled in favour of Warner Bros and stripped Coppola of the 1998 award.

Letter

The appeals court found that even though the parties never agreed on a long-form contract, the director had signed a 1992 certificate of employment that gave Warner Bros rights to a Coppola Pinocchio project.

Consequently Warner Brothers had the right to tell the Columbia studio in a 1994 letter that it reserved all rights to a Coppola Pinocchio movie.

This differed from the 1998 judgement, when a Superior Court jury had ruled that Warner Bros falsely claimed to have a Pinocchio deal with Coppola, thus preventing him from making the movie with Columbia.

Damages

A trial judge later threw out the jury's $60m (43m) punitive damage award, but left Coppola with the lower figure in compensatory damages.

It was then the director launched his ill-fated appeal to have the punitive damages reinstated and Warner Bros appealed to have the compensatory damages dismissed.

The Oscar-winning director's lawyers did not return a message for comment.

The director's film credits include Apocalypse Now and the Godfather films.

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