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MGM and Danjaq settle James Bond rights dispute with McClory estate

“Thunderball”
Sean Connery as James Bond in the 1965 movie “Thunderball.”

Ending a copyright dispute that has lasted more than 50 years, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. and Danjaq LLC. have acquired all the rights and interests related to the debonair super-spy James Bond. 

MGM, the longtime distributor of the Bond movies, and Danjaq, the franchise’s producer, reached a settlement with the estate of Kevin McClory, who collaborated with 007 author Ian Fleming on the script for the movie “Thunderball.”

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but the companies said it brought the copyright saga to an “amicable conclusion.”

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The legal duels began when Fleming turned the first James Bond script -- which he wrote with McClory and writer-for-hire Jack Whittingham -- into the novel “Thunderball.” McClory sued in 1961 over ownership rights. The parties settled, and McClory was able to produce “Thunderball,” which was eventually released in 1965 and was the franchise’s fourth 007 film. 

In 1983, a London court held that McClory had the right to produce James Bond movies, allowing the release of “Never Say Never Again,” which brought Sean Connery back as the dashing spy for the last time.

A California court delivered McClory a setback in 2001 by rejecting McClory’s claims to royalties from 007 movies, arguing he had waited too long to make his case. 

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McClory died in 2006 at the age of 80.  

BakerHostetler LLP partner William Kane, who represented McClory’s estate, said in a statement: “The 50-year intellectual property row involving James Bond was settled because of a great deal of hard work by the attorneys for the Estate of Kevin McClory, MGM, and Danjaq and will benefit James Bond film fans throughout the world.”    

The 24 James Bond films -- including “Never Say Never Again” -- have grossed a total of more than $1.91 billion domestically, according to Box Office Mojo, and the latest, 2012’s “Skyfall,” took in more than $304 million.

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Follow on Twitter: @rfaughnder

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ryan.faughnder@latimes.com



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