‘Godfather’ Author’s Son Files Counterclaim Against Paramount

March 14 (Bloomberg) -- Paramount Pictures Corp.’s interpretation of a 1969 agreement with “The Godfather” author Mario Puzo is costing his estate more than $10 million, the novelist’s son and estate executor said in court papers.

Paramount, a unit of New York-based Viacom Inc., sued Anthony Puzo last month to prevent the publication of a new sequel to his father’s novel, “The Godfather,” which it says wasn’t authorized. Anthony Puzo countersued Paramount, claiming the movie studio interfered with a publishing contract and breached its 1969 copyright agreement with his father.

Paramount sued “to disregard its contractual promises to Mario Puzo,” Anthony Puzo said in a March 12 filing in Manhattan federal court. He asked a judge to terminate Paramount’s rights under the agreement and award additional unspecified punitive damages.

“Paramount has tremendous respect and admiration for Mario Puzo and his legacy,” the studio said in an e-mailed statement. “We are only seeking to adhere to the terms of the deal that were agreed upon by Mr. Puzo himself.”

The proposed sequel would be the third. Paramount claimed in its complaint that after Puzo’s death in 1999, it agreed to let Bertelsmann AG’s Random House unit publish a single sequel, “The Godfather Returns,” in 2004. The estate published another novel, “The Godfather’s Revenge,” in 2006 without Paramount’s approval, the film studio said in its complaint.

Anthony Puzo argued that the contract between Paramount and his father excluded book publishing rights.

‘Excluded Rights’

“Such excluded rights were reserved in the author, Mario Puzo, including the right to publish a book that includes characters from ‘The Godfather’ in new and different situations,” Puzo said in the filing.

The estate repeatedly notified Paramount of the sequel, which is to be published in May, Puzo said. The studio didn’t protest until late last year after the publishing contract was signed, according to Puzo.

The first film based on the original novel, a family saga about New York gangsters, was released in 1972 and won Academy Awards for best picture, actor and adapted screenplay. Puzo shared credit for the screenplay. Francis Ford Coppola directed the three “Godfather” movies.

The case is Paramount Pictures Corp. v. Puzo, 12-CV-1268, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

To contact the reporter on this story: Sophia Pearson in Philadelphia at spearson3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net