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MGM Powers Play Dismembers Title

NL currently barred from using 'Goldmember' moniker


HOLLYWOOD -- New Line Cinema quietly took down its online promotional sites and began rescinding marketing materials for "Austin Powers in Goldmember" on Friday after the Motion Picture Assn. of America ruled the title "inadmissible."

The edict was handed down Thursday by the MPAA's three-member title administration arbitration panel following a protest by MGM and United Artists over the New Line title, which parodies that of the 1964 James Bond film "Goldfinger."

On Sunday, a New Line spokesman said the studio would appeal that ruling.

In a statement, New Line said that "the issue currently in dispute does not pertain to the title or content of the film. Indeed, in 1997, New Line's use of the title 'The Spy Who Shagged Me' was cleared by the MPAA. Thursday's hearing was solely about a procedural infraction, and nothing more, between New Line and the MPAA, which we are in the process of resolving privately. We find it unproductive and will not tolerate any deliberate attempts to manipulate the facts in the press to further aggravate this matter."

In case anyone missed the joke, "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" echoes the title of the 1977 Bond film "The Spy Who Loved Me."

Despite using titles such as "Octopussy" themselves, MGM, UA and the Broccoli family's Danjaq Prods. have always been notoriously humor-impaired when it comes to the Bond franchise: They have been known to sic hard-hitting Hollywood litigator Pierce O'Donnell on auto companies that had the temerity to use a well-dressed spy as the subject of a TV ad.

'Shagged' victory

Similarly, MGM and UA would have loved to put a stop to the use of "Shagged Me," but when they registered a protest with the MPAA in 1997, New Line countered the suit and won. This time, New Line apparently failed to go through the proper channels in its counter and, for now at least, does not have the right to use the "Goldmember" title.

"MGM/UA and Danjaq have a zero-tolerance policy towards anyone who tries to trade in on the James Bond franchise without authorization," an MGM spokesman said Friday.

In a statement released Friday, New Line said, "We are currently in the arbitration process and trying to resolve this matter under the MPAA guidelines. Until that time, we will be referring to the film as the third installment of 'Austin Powers.' "

Fair use fray

Given the Lion's attitude toward its sacred Bond cow, it's hard to believe that MGM and UA would see fit to abandon its advantage at this point. New Line could conceivably fight the ruling under fair use in copyright law.

Rappers 2 Live Crew, for example, took its use of the song "Pretty Woman" all the way to the Supreme Court, which then reached the explicit conclusion that a parody falls within the scope of the fair-use defense. It would, however, be impossible to market the film as "Goldmember" during that process.

A new title, then? New Line marketing president Russell Schwartz is certainly up to the task, but it would be a brain teaser: "Goldmember" is the name of one of four characters that Mike Myers portrays in the film.

January 28, 2002

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