COURTS Woody Harrelson stood by his dad at a hearing in a Denver court yesterday. The elder Harrelson, Charles, asked the judge for a new trial to overturn his 1982 conviction for the killing of a judge. Charles Harrelson’s attorney says Woody attended to show support for his father, who is serving a life sentence for the 1979 murder. The hearing is a continuation of a 1998 proceeding that ended because the presiding judge saw a conflict of interest. (He had once played pickup basketball with the ”White Men Can’t Jump” star in a Denver hotel.) In ’98, Harrelson told reporters he believed that his father had not received a fair trial. Yesterday, Charles testified that ”virtually no effort was made by the defense to substantiate my claims” that he was 250 miles away in Dallas at the time of the murder. When attorneys told the judge that the defense had spent about $7,000 on Harrelson’s trial and the prosecution about $10 million, he said ”That’s not quite a level playing field is it?” Prosecutors argue that the conviction was just.
LEGALESE While the rest of the world battles over digital piracy, the Rolling Stones‘ former label is ensnared in a much more seminal musical copyright dispute. The label, ABKCO Music, lost a significant part of its war over the rights to two songs first recorded by legendary bluesman Robert Johnson. ABKCO had argued that the Stones did not steal Johnson’s songs from the current copyright holder when they recorded the mythic songster’s ”Love In Vain” and ”Stop Breakin’ Down” in the 1960s and ’70s, because the band believed common law copyright had expired. (Johnson’s tunes were never formally copyrighted.) But the judge eliminated that justification. Johnson’s songs were reissued in 1961 and 1970, and a lawyer for the current copyright holder said that he believes the court will rule that the band had no right to use the songs without paying. The lawyer for the label says he is jumping to conclusions. Maybe someone should consult the devil.
BOOKS Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reports that in spite of extreme efforts to keep details of ”Harry Potter 4” under wraps, the book’s title has — gasp! — leaked. Apparently J.K. Rowling’s fourth will be called ”Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” when it hits store shelves on July 8. British, U.S., and Canadian publishers had signed agreements with printers and shippers not to disclose the title or the plot. The book’s commissioning editor told the paper that it was a ”challenge” to keep the title secret. ”I had [the manuscript] on me at all times, and when I was not working I kept it in a safety box at the bank,” she said. Now that it’s out she’ll have more room for all the cash she should make.
TOONING OUT Following dismal box office results for its animated flick ”Titan A.E.,” 20th Century Fox announced that it will shut down its 6 year old animation studio in Phoenix, Variety reports. The move shows that, despite breakthroughs like DreamWorks’ ”Chicken Run,” the animated world remains a fierce battlefield for those who would fill Walt Disney’s shoes. ”It really is a tough marketplace,” said Fox Animation prez Chris Meledandri. The $80 million ”Titan” has earned only a meager $16.9 mil in two weeks at the box office.
REEL DEALS J.K. Rowling isn’t the only writer with a gazillion-dollar Hollywood commodity. Variety reports that legendary sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov‘s books are suddenly among Tinsel Town’s most sought after properties — eight years after the writer’s death. Fox has optioned Asimov’s most popular series ”Foundation” (20 million copies sold) for ”Elizabeth” director Shekhar Kapur, and Paramount is in the process of turning ”End of Eternity” into a flick that ”Gladiator”’s Ridley Scott is likely to helm. Most recently, Warner Bros. closed a deal to adapt Asimov’s short story ”The Ugly Little Boy” into a film that will star Demi Moore. Let’s hope it isn’t as ”freely adapted” as her attempt at ”The Scarlet Letter.”
GUEST STAR After seven years in seclusion Axl Rose made a surprise appearance on a West Hollywood club stage last week, Rolling Stone reports. The Guns N’ Roses frontman joined onetime Guns guitarist Gilby Clarke for a performance of two Rolling Stones covers ”Wild Horses” and ”Dead Flowers.” The mag says his move could foreshadow a return to the stage for the reclusive rocker. Maybe we should consult his telepathic stalker for details.
SIGN OF THE TIMES Now, they won’t just LOOK like real diamonds. America’s newly rich may soon receive a cable network just for them, Variety reports. Scripps Networks has begun marketing Fine Living Network, a 24 hour cable network answer to the middlebrow Home Shopping Network. Hopefully the network will take cash, credit, and stock options.