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Copyright dispute puts Lennon film back on the shelf

A Maine private school canceled the premiere of a new documentary on John Lennon yesterday, citing a dispute over the ownership of the film.

Berwick Academy had planned to show the two-hour film, "3 Days in the Life," but on Monday, lawyers for the ex-Beatle's widow, Yoko Ono, contacted the school and cited opposition to the plan.

The film was shot over a three-day period in 1970 by Tony Cox, Ono's former husband. It shows Lennon and Ono at their countryside estate and captures Lennon writing "Remember" and "Mind Games." In 2000, it was sold by Cox to three New England men, John Fallon, Ray Thomas, and Robert Grenier, for $1 million.

In a letter that was sent to Berwick Academy, Dorothy Weber, Ono's attorney, asserted that Ono owns the tapes shot by Cox. "Mrs. Lennon owns all rights, title and copyrights in and to all film, outtakes and videotapes embodying the images of the late John Lennon and herself as filmed by Anthony Cox in 1970," wrote Weber.

"The sum and substance is that there is a dispute over the ownership of the film, but I can't get into the specifics while there's a pending dispute," Weber later told the Globe.

In a statement released by the school, Berwick said the copyright ownership was in question. "Berwick Academy received a correspondence from Ms. Ono's attorneys indicating that Ms. Ono retains a copyright interest in the footage and has not granted a license or permission for a public showing of the film. Given the apparent dispute over ownership rights in the film, Berwick Academy has decided not to show the film as previously scheduled until the parties resolve the underlying ownership dispute," the statement read.

Berwick Academy spokeswoman Shanlee Linney Ginchereau declined to comment further.

Fallon insisted that the three New England men own the film and said they intend to take the case to court if necessary. "We own the copyright, unequivocally. We have never transferred the copyright," said Fallon.