MPAA settles "The Butler" dispute with compromise

The Weinstein Company

"The Butler" is getting a name change.

The Motion Picture Association of America has settled the roiling dispute between Harvey Weinstein and Warner Bros. over the use of the movie's name.

In a ruling Friday night, the MPAA's Title Registration Bureau said the Weinstein Co. could not go forward with the title for its upcoming Lee Daniels' White House drama. In the MPAA's title registry, Warner Bros. reserves the rights to the title due to a so-named 1916 short.

But the Weinstein Co. will be allowed to use the title "Lee Daniels' The Butler," which the company said it would switch to immediately. The MPAA stipulated that the letters in "Lee Daniels" must be at least 75 percent the size of "The Butler."

Weinstein took his case public in recent weeks (including an appearance on "CBS This Morning," which you can watch at left), leading to one of the more visible Hollywood clashes in recent years, if over a relatively minor squabble.

Weinstein had argued that Warner Bros. was attempting to use the dispute to extort from him his percentage of "The Hobbit," the three-part franchise Warner Bros. is releasing. (Title conflicts are often settled with a little horse trading.)

Warner Bros. denied Weinstein's assertion and claimed that Weinstein continually flouted the protocol of the title registry.

Friday's decision settled an appeal from the Weinstein Co. after an arbitration ruling earlier in the month.

For violating the MPAA's earlier ruling, the Weinstein Co. was ordered to pay $400,000 to the Entertainment Industry Foundation and $150,000 to Warner Bros. in legal fees. Increased fines will be added if the Weinstein Co. doesn't halt all trailers and advertisements using "The Butler" by Friday.

Though titles can't be copyrighted, a certain number of Hollywood titles are protected by the Title Registration Bureau. The Weinstein Co. and Warner Bros. voluntarily subscribe to the registry, agreeing to be bound by its rules to prevent public confusion over similarly titled films.

In a statement Monday, Weinstein said he was "thrilled this has all come to an end."

The film, starring Forest Whitaker as a White House butler whose service spanned decades of U.S. presidents, is scheduled for release on Aug. 16. The cast also includes Oprah Winfrey, Liev Schreiber, John Cusack, Alan Rickman, Minka Kelly, Robin Williams, Jane Fonda, Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding Jr.

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