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Heir hopes for knockout in estate dispute before Supreme Court

Her father wrote about a fighter and now, many years later, she is fighting movie industry giants for what she says is her rightful inheritance: a slice of the profits from the famous boxing movie, "Raging Bull."

It has been more than three decades since Martin Scorcese's masterpiece captivated moviegoers. MGM and 20th Century Fox say Paula Petrella, whose father, Frank Petrella, wrote the book on which the movie was based, waited far too long to stake her claim.

Last year, a federal appeals court agreed with the moviemakers, but the U.S. Supreme Court recently announced that it intends to review that decision.

The high court will look at whether Paula Petrella really did give up her ability to enforce copyright protections for the book her father wrote about boxer Jake LaMotta.

She filed her action in 2009; the 1980 movie won Robert De Niro an Oscar for best actor.

Petrella argues that her father's 1981 death was before the original 28-year copyright term expired, and that she inherited those rights.

She also argues that MGM and 20th Century Fox infringed on that copyright.

The two companies argue that she waited too long to file her claim, stating that the three-year statute of limitations expired.

One question the high court might settle after reviewing the case: should she have filed her claim earlier? She says her representatives started contacting MGM back in the 1990s with complaints.

There's no doubt that most parents want to be able to help their children avoid this sort of years-long legal dispute over an estate. They can achieve that goal with the assistance of an attorney well-versed in protecting heirs with careful estate planning.

Source: hollywoodreporter.com, "Supreme Court Will Hear 'Raging Bull' Dispute," Oct. 1, 2013

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