Pythons fight bank for rights to `Life of Brian'; Who's Suing Whom

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The Independent Online
MONTY PYTHON is suing the Royal Bank of Canada over the rights to the film Monty Python's Life of Brian.

In a legal case that begs to be called "Pythonesque", Python (Monty) Pictures Limited says it licensed the film, made in 1978 and released in 1979, to a Canadian distribution company, Paragon Entertainment Corporation, in 1994. Paragon then used its rights to the film as security for loans from the Royal Bank of Canada.

The Pythons no longer have a contract with Paragon, and are now going to court to prevent the bank from trying to claim any rights over the film.

The Pythons took legal action last year against Paragon, claiming that it had failed to "impose identical restrictions on cutting and editing" on the third parties to which it had supplied the film, such as Channel 4.

Mr Justice Rattee ruled in the High Courton 21 May that the copyright of Monty Python's Life of Brian rested with the Pythons. Now the Royal Bank of Canada claims that it has certain rights over the film because Paragon used its rights in the film as security for loans from the bank. The Pythons claim that any such rights, if they ever existed, were nullified when their relationship with Paragon ended in 1996.

A CLAIM for more than pounds 200m by the Inland Revenue against the estate of the late Octav Botnar, the former head of Nissan UK Ltd, is set to reach the Court of Appeal next month.

The High Court ruled in favour of the Inland Revenue's demand in November 1997. Mr Botnar, a German national resident of Switzerland, died in July 1998, delaying the appeal until May this year.

Mr Botnar ran Nissan UK, which from 1974 had the sole right to import Nissan cars from Japan into the UK. The Inland Revenue raided Mr Botnar's offices in June 1991 and accused him of corporation tax evasion. They claimed a total of pounds 207m in back taxes from his company. Nissan withdrew itsfranchise from Mr Botnar's company in 1992.

In November 1996 the revenue settled for a payment of pounds 59m from Nissan UK. Two Nissan UK directors, Michael Hunt and Frank Shannon, were jailed for cheating the revenue. During this time Mr Botnar remained in Switzerland.

The revenue subsequently dropped its case against Mr Botnar due to his ill health. His solicitors then filed a suit against the revenue for "malicious prosecution" on the grounds that the revenue had not possessed enough evidence to justify its arrest warrants.

Mr Botnar died in 1998 and his lawyers then dropped this claim.

Mark Spragg, of Jeffrey Green Russell, the UK solicitor representing Mr Botnar's estate, says the current case centres on two trusts which Mr Botnar set up in 1974 to handle his shareholding in Nissan UK. He placed his shares in a charitable trust, and the dividends from these were paid into a second trust in Liechtenstein.

The revenue claims it is owed income tax on these dividends totalling pounds 68m. Including interest and penalties, Mr Spragg reckons this claim could eventually surpass pounds 200m. The Court of Appeal will hear the case on 25 or 26 May.

ANDERSEN CONSULTING is seeking confidential customer information from BT to aid itslegal case against a Cheshire company which it accuses of making telephone calls "purporting to be made by" Andersen Consulting.

The giant American-based firm has issued a summons against BT in order to obtain itemised call logs relating to Totally Outsourced Proactive Solutions Ltd, a company based in Bowden.

In particular, Andersen wants the logs "relating to all telephone lines numbered 0161-929 5335 and all fax lines numbered 0161-9295445" for the period 1 January 1998 to 31 March 1999.

Andersen says that it intends to bring proceedings against the Cheshire firm for, amongst other things, "unlawful interference with business, misuse of confidential information and passing off, in respect of a number of false telephone calls purporting to be made by or on behalf of (Andersen Consulting or its clients)."

ORBIS PENSION Trustees are suing Storehouse Combined Pension Schemes for more than pounds 100,000 over a property which the latter leased and then vacated, and which Orbis claims should have been refurbished by the pension fund.

Orbis originally leased the offices in Ley Street, Ilford, Essex in 1975 from a company called Brador Properties for 99 years.

Orbis then negotiated an "underlease" with Storehouse, formerly Mothercare Pension Schemes Limited, in 1986 for a period of 10 years .

Storehouse moved out of the premises in September last year. Orbis claims that under the lease agreement, Storehouse should have made a raft of repairs to the offices, which it estimate will now cost pounds 110,022.64. Orbis are demanding damages and costs.