A Tidy End to 'Deep Throat' Ownership Fight

10/21/2011 2:05:00 PM, Tim Hull
     (CN) - Two Nevada-based adult film companies reached a settlement this week that resolves the ownership dispute over the 1972 porn classic "Deep Throat."

     Arrow Productions and V.C.X. Ltd. signed a consent decree stating that Arrow owns a valid copyright to "Deep Throat" and other movies staring the film's protagonist, Linda Lovelace, according to documents filed in Las Vegas on Tuesday. For its part, Arrow agreed not to produce and sell copies of another famous 1970s triple-X blockbuster, "Debbie Does Dallas." That film has been in the public domain for years, according to Arrow's attorney.
     The agreement ends more than two years of wrangling over "Deep Throat," one of most famous and highest-grossing adult films of all time.
     Arrow owner Raymond Pistol sued V.C.X and its owner, David Sutton, in 2009, alleging that V.C.X. had violated Arrow's copyrights by selling thousands of copies of "Deep Throat" and other Linda Lovelace films.
     V.C.X. argued that "Deep Throat," like "Debbie Does Dallas," had entered the public domain because it had been circulated to theaters without a copyright notice.
     The consent decree, signed by both Pistol and Sutton, clears up the dispute, declaring that Arrow "owns a valid copyright on the motion picture 'Deep Throat.'"
     "Deep Throat" has a notorious history replete with connections to organized crime, arrests and trials for obscenity, an off-hand connection to the Watergate investigation, and claims by the late actress who played Linda Lovelace, Linda Susan Boreman, that she was forced into the now iconic role by an abusive husband. The copyright issue, however, is actually rather cut-and-dry.
     Louis Peraino, reportedly connected to organized crime through his father, hired director Gerard Damiano to make Deep Throat in 1972.
     Every time that Peraino showed the finished film, which enjoyed mainstream popularity in some urban areas in the 1970s, he maintained complete control of the print, according to court documents. Called "four-walling," Peraino rented the entire theater, sold all the tickets, paid the employees and operated the equipment. Thus, the film was never "published" under federal copyright law because Peraino never gave up control. Peraino later allowed the film to be copied and sold on videotape, but all of the prints contained a copyright notice.
     Peraino sold Arrow the rights to "Deep Throat" in 1996.
     "Peraino never relinquished copies of any of the prints to 'Deep Throat' until the late 1980s; and those prints each included a copyright notice," according to the consent decree, which was approved and signed by U.S. District Judge Philip Pro in Las Vegas. "Thus, contrary to what V.C.X. believed, 'Deep Throat' was not put into the public domain by virtue of circulating prints without a copyright notice. While there may have been prints of 'Deep Throat' that were circulated without a copyright notice, those were amongst the many unauthorized prints that were made by the film lab without knowledge or authorization of Peraino or his corporation and sold illegally."
     Arrow attorney Allen Lichtenstein told Courthouse News that the company was willing to give up dealing "Debbie Does Dallas" to ensure the protection of "Deep Throat."
     "The issue involved an attack on 'Deep Throat,'" Lichtenstein said. "We were set to go to court, but rather than go to the trouble and expense of a court battle, we came to an agreement. Even though Arrow had the right to say "Debbie Does Dallas" is in the public domain, and we can do what we want, it was not a big deal to us." Attachment