John Lennon's widow Yoko Ono is due in court next week to prevent the publication of footage showing the former Beatle smoking cannabis.

Massachussetts-based company World Wide Video is claiming ownership of nine hours of video footage which shows Lennon using drugs, as well as discussing putting the hallucinogen LSD into the tea of then US president Richard Nixon.

The company wishes to release the black-and-white reel as a two-hour film entitled 3 Days in the Life, according to the Reuters news agency.

Having paid more than $1 million (£500,000) for the footage - filmed weeks before the Beatles' breakup in 1970 - World Wide Video attempted to screen the film at the private Berwick Academy in Maine last year, only for an injunction from Ono's lawyers to prevent the premiere.

While Ono claims to own the copyright to the tapes, having purchased them legally from World Wide Video, the Massachussetts firm asserts that it purchased 24 original videotapes and their copyrights from Anthony Cox, Ono's former husband, in 2000.

But after the deal with Mr Cox - who shot the film between February 8th and February 11th 1970 at Lennon's English estate - was closed, World Wide claims the tapes were stolen.

A New Hampshire man agreed to return copies of the tapes after a separate civil suit the following year and promised to locate the originals, which are now held by Ono.

In a telephone interview with Reuters, World Wide's lawyer said: "The decision that should be made in the case is who in fact does have the copyright.

"We're saying that we legitimately own the copyright to this film."

A preliminary hearing is due to take place on April 30th.

23/04/2008 10:49:25