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Last Updated: Thursday, 5 June, 2003, 08:15 GMT 09:15 UK
Sale of Soviet films disputed
Red Square, Moscow
The studio has applied to a court in Moscow for redress
Russia's state-owned cartoon studio is taking legal action against the sale of 1,200 classic Soviet-era animations to a US film company.

The studio, called Soyuzmultfilm, has applied to the Moscow Arbitration Court, saying it wants a ruling annulling the "illegal" 1992 sale of the rights of the cartoons.

The animations were produced by the studio between 1936 and 1992 and the studio's director, Ernst Rakhimov, said they belonged to Russia's "national heritage".

Mr Rakhimov said foreign distribution rights to the films, which were sold to US company Films by Jove, were "worth between $5m (3m) and $7m (4.2m)".

Films by Jove was formed by a former Soviet actor, Oleg Vidov, who had emigrated to the US.

He bought a 30-year lease on the rights to the films for $500,000 (306,000) in the months after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Boris Yeltsin
A new cartoon studio was formed by an initiative by Boris Yeltsin
Mr Rakhimov added that the money paid under the terms of the contract, which stated that Soyuzmultfilm and the movies' writers should receive 39% of Films by Jove's profits, had brought in "not a kopek".

The cartoon studio has accused the company's former director, Igor Skulyabin, of withholding the money and absconding to the US.

But Russian weekly magazine Ezhenedelny Zhurnal said the sale was drawn up in "obscure circumstances by the Russian government of the time" with Soyuzmultfilm.

It said Russia's current government was keen to recover the rights of the films.

'No right to sell'

But studio director Mr Rakhimov disputed the magazine's version of events.

He said the Soyuzmultfilm of 1992, which was reconstituted in 1999, "was not the legal owner of the rights to the studio's production, and had even less right to sell the rights."

He said the "old Soyuzmultfilm simply "had the use of the buildings and studio facilities".

And the studio head said the new company, formed on the initiative of then president Boris Yeltsin, was the legal owner of the rights to the films.

He said he had sought redress from Films by Jove.

But he added that the US firm failed to respond to a summons by a Russian court to appear in court on 28 May.

Russia vows to battle the pirates
06 May 03  |  Business
Soviet cinema's romantic dies
19 Apr 03  |  Europe

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