VCX Faces Suit Waged by Arrow Over ‘Deep Throat’

Apr 28, 2009 2:45 PM PST
LAS VEGAS — Arrow Productions has filed suit against VCX and owner David Sutton over marketing DVD copies of the 1972 Linda Lovelace movie “Deep Throat.”

The six-count complaint alleges trademark and copyright infringement and counterfeiting, among other charges, over the sale of copies of “Deep Throat,” which, according to the suit, started this year.

VCX, which sells classic porn movies from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, markets copies of “Deep Throat” on its website for $24.95.

In the suit, Arrow says it owns the copyright and trademark for “Deep Throat”-related videos and products, as well as the trademark Linda Lovelace (the pseudonym for now-deceased actress Linda Boreman).

Robert Interlandi, who leads marketing efforts for Arrow Productions, told XBIZ in a statement that what VCX has done amounts to piracy.

"David Sutton, the CEO of VCX, also is one of the heads of porn's anti-piracy board and he is being sued for trademark and copyright infringement over pirating the movie ‘Deep Throat,’” he said.

But VCX President Sutton said the suit is more about “posturing” than about anything else, and that it was Arrow Productions that fired the first shot when it re-released “Debbie Does Dallas” and “Devil in Miss Jones,” two videos that were re-released in 2006 by VCX.

“I’m really surprised by [the suit],” Sutton told XBIZ. “Arrow’s premise is bullshit, and I have been forced to do this as a result of what Arrow did — re-releasing these two movies.

“There is not a voice louder than mine advocating against piracy,” he said. “This is a case that needs to be decided by the courts.”

“Deep Throat” was produced by Plymouth Distributing owner Louis "Butchie" Peraino, who later called the company Arrow Film and Video, which is now known as Arrow Productions and headed by Raymond Pistol.

The 61-minute movie follows a sexually frustrated woman who asks her friend for advice on how to achieve an orgasm. After a sex party provides no help, Lovelace visits a doctor (Harry Reems), who discovers that her clitoris is located in her throat. The movie’s tagline is “How far does a girl have to go to untangle her tingle?”

The production is rumored to have cost less than $50,000 and was directed by Gerard Damiano, who had rights to one-third of the profits. He reportedly was paid a lump sum of $25,000 once the film became popular and was forced out of the partnership. It reportedly earned box-office sales of $600 million.

In the 1970s, the film was banned outright in many parts of the U.S., and typically tended to find “four-walled” screenings in a small network of adult theaters. The term four-walled refers to the practice where a producer rents a theater (the four walls), presents a show and keeps the proceeds. The producer even operates the projector.

In the 21st century, however, the “Deep Throat” brand has taken a life of its own and now is featured in an Arrow energy drink, T-shirts, shot glasses and posters, as well as the "Deeper Throat" reality TV series on Showtime.

That’s where the real suit begins, according to attorney Clyde DeWitt, who represents Arrow.

“The ‘Deep Throat’ mark is valuable, and Arrow has every right to exploit it,” DeWitt told XBIZ.

DeWitt noted that it’s a misperception that just because the movie was filmed in the 1970s, all rights haven’t been assigned. (Works of art that were exhibited or sold prior to March 1989 required affixation of a copyright notice as a requisite to maintaining an enforceable copyright.)

“[VCX] apparently believes that [‘Deep Throat’] is in the public domain,” he said. “We think they’re wrong.”

The suit, filed at U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, seeks an order requiring VCX to stop selling “Deep Throat” movies and to turn over to Arrow any inventory of “Deep Throat” movies and DVD labeling and packaging. The suit also seeks a recall from consumers all such movies it has sold.

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