Tropfest founder John Polson and collaborator Gary Hamilton have been accused of copyright infringement in their project to create a film about Sydney through a series of vignettes.
Emmanuel Benbihy, the creator of the similarly structured Paris Je T’aime, has been to court in France, claiming copyright and trademark infringement over Sydney Unplugged. He has won an order of seizure which orders the release of documents relating to the project.
Polson and Hamilton, who is MD of Sydney-based production company Arclight Films, were this week believed to be in Cannes attempting to sell rights to the film.
In 2006 Benbihy produced Paris Je T’aime, his first in a series of feature films based on vignettes compiled by different directors and set in a particular city. It was followed by New York, I Love You.
When the Sydney project was first revealed last June, Polson told Encore magazine it was called Sydney, I Love You. The film – since renamed Sydney Unplugged – is scheduled for production in the second half of this year for release in 2013.
Benbihy said in a press release: “On Monday, the Marseille Court of Justice issued a court order for the Arclight seizure based on an extensive list of elements that we provided showing the source of this project and the confusion it already created. The seizure was carried by an official bailiff holding the original seizure order.”
The order of seizure is the first step in a possible trial towards an infringement suit.
Arclight did not respond to Encore’s request for comment.
Benbihy claims on hearing of the Sydney film he contacted Polson and Hamilton to work together but they declined. He said of Polson and Hamilton: “I can’t believe that people with such film experience have decided to illustrate the image of a wonderful city with so little concern for their actions and such an unethical manner. They will be embarrassing a lot of people including Australian film institutions and sponsors.”
Sydney Unplugged received single-project development funding from Screen Australia in January.
As creator of Cities of Love franchise, Benbihy was also producer on New York, I Love You. He has previously sent cease and desist letters for copyright and trademark infringement among other claims to former partners on New York, I Love You, Visitor Pictures, Sherazade Films and Very Useful Co, for their similar project Love Berlin – How We’ve Met.
Sydney Unplugged is due to include stories from a mixture of directors of varying experience including Alex Proyas, Russell Crowe, David Michod, Rachel Ward, Ray Lawrence, Toni Collette and Kieran Darcy-Smith.
Benbihy has franchised the project with films Shanghai, I Love You, Rio, Eu the Amo, Berlin, I Love You, and Jerusalem, I Love You, maintaining producer or EP on the title.