Artist, cathedral and Warner Bros. settle dispute over sculpture

Monday, February 16, 1998

"Ex-Nihilo...
AP Photo
“Ex-Nihilo”

WASHINGTON (AP) – A copyright dispute that had pitted Warner Bros. against a sculptor and the Washington National Cathedral was resolved Friday, the church announced in a joint statement with the film company.


Sculptor Frederick Hart and the cathedral, had filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. over the use of his copyright artwork, “Ex Nihilo,” in the film Devil’s Advocate. The movie stars Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves.


In the settlement, Warner Bros. insisted it had not used Hart’s work but would agree “to make changes to certain portions of the film to eliminate any perceived confusion in future distribution of the movie,” referring to its upcoming release on video.


The bas-relief sculpture, found at the cathedral’s main entrance, depicts the creation of mankind from chaos as told in the book of Genesis. In the film, an image of the sculpture comes to life and writhes erotically in the apartment of the devil.


Hart and the cathedral claimed confusion about the work and the sculpture in the film had damaged both their reputations.


Warner Bros. conceded that the artist who designed the sculpture in the movie had reviewed several works of art, including “Ex Nihilo.” However, the studio claimed it had the right to use that image under the protection of the First Amendment.


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