Judge to rule Friday on earlier "Watchmen" hearing

Thu Jan 8, 2009 3:13pm EST
 
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A federal judge is expected to rule on Friday whether to move up a January 20 hearing regarding the release of Warner Bros' "Watchmen" film.

The superhero film is at the center of a copyright infringement battle between Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros and News Corp's Twentieth Century Fox.

In court papers on Wednesday, Warner Bros requested that the January 20 hearing be moved up to as early as Monday because "time is critical."

U.S. District Judge Gary Feess last month ruled the film, which reportedly cost Warner Bros more than $120 million to make, infringes on a copyright held by Fox.

Feess has said he would delay ruling on an injunction sought by Fox to bar the March 6 release of the film, saying he would consider the request, as well as damages and other issues, at a January 20 hearing.

Warner said it would like to push that hearing up to January 12, because the movie release is less than eight weeks away and the studio has tens of millions of dollars in marketing expenses on the line.

Feess ruled on December 24 that Fox still owned "at the very least, a distribution right" in the film, based on a comic book series about superheroes, because producer Lawrence Gordon had never acquired those rights from the studio.

Gordon tried for years to adapt the series into a film, and was successful after teaming with "300" director Zack Snyder and Warner Bros.

Warner has said it was considering an appeal of the copyright infringement finding.

(Reporting by Sue Zeidler; Editing by Bernard Orr)

 
<p>Eric Tetangco, of Los Angeles, arrives dressed as Rorschach from comic Watchmen during the 39th annual Comic Con Convention in San Diego July 24, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>