NEW YORK (Reuters) - The movie studio that controls the rights to "The Godfather" has sued the estate of its creator Mario Puzo, accusing his heirs of wrongfully authorizing new book sequels to the fictional mafia family's story.
Paramount Pictures studio, in a lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court on February 17, accused the estate of Puzo, who wrote 1969 bestseller "The Godfather," of approving sequels to the Oscar-winning movies without the studio's permission and in violation of copyright agreements.
The lawsuit said a 2002 agreement between the studio and the Puzo estate allowed for the publication of only one sequel novel to the movies. That book, "The Godfather Returns" by Mark Winegardner, was published in 2004.
Despite the agreement, the Puzo family opted to publish a second novel called "The Godfather's Revenge," the lawsuit said, and is planning a third book for release this year called "The Family Corleone."
"Far from properly honoring the legacy of 'The Godfather,' the unauthorized "The Godfather's Revenge" tarnished it, and in the process, also misled consumers in connection with advertising, marketing, and promotional material related to the first and second sequel novels," the lawsuit said.
An attorney for the Puzo family, Bertram Fields, said Paramount did not have control of book publishing rights and called the lawsuit "hogwash."
"Paramount's conduct in launching this attack against the children of Mario Puzo is reprehensible, they should be ashamed of themselves," Fields said.
Fields said the lawsuit was a schock because he had written to Paramount advising the studio of the upcoming book publications but had heard nothing back.
The 1972 movie "The Godfather" was directed by Francis Ford Coppola and won three Oscars. Puzo, an Italian-American crime writer who died in 1999, also co-wrote the screenplays for all three Godfather movies.
The Paramount lawsuit said the Puzo estate is now being controlled by Mario Puzo's son, Anthony.
The case is Paramount Pictures Corporation v. Anthony Puzo, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 12-1268.
Reporting by Basil Katz; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte