Judge Rules 'We Are Marshall' Didn't Violate Anything But Sports Movie Cliches

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Judge Rules 'We Are Marshall' Didn't Violate Anything But Sports Movie Cliches

Wed Oct 22, 2008 @ 10:04AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Wearemarshallposter A federal judge has ruled that Warner Bros. Pictures and Thunder Road Prods didn't violate any copyright when producing the film "We are Marshall."

The plaintiffs in the case were two documentary filmmakers, Deborah Novak and John Witek, who collaborated on the 2000 documentary "Ashes to Glory," which told the story of the Marshall football team after a 1970 plane crash killed most of its members. In the lawsuit, they argued that the defendants became interested in developing a film based on the Marshall story and contacted the two about optioning the rights to "Ashes of Glory." The parties failed to reach an agreement on the financial terms and conditions and the defendants went ahead with the project.

In his ruling, California district judge Gary Feess calls the events surrounding the Marshall football team "matters of public record which cannot be copyrighted" and dismisses a breach-of-contract claim on grounds the plaintiffs "clearly understood that they had no agreement" to breach.

The full decision after the jump:


Here's a copy of the decision.

The case, where the defendants admitted to seeing the plaintiff's work and opening up negotiations to license it, just goes to show how tough it is to win on these claims.

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The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to Matthew.Belloni@thr.com

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