Free Advice Q&A: That movie is just like my movie, who do I sue?Thu Jul 22, 2010 @ 10:03AM PST
We asked A-list Hollywood litigator Patty Glaser for her thoughts on how to evaluate whether you should sue a studio for idea theft....
THR, Esq.: A studio just greenlit a movie that mirrors a project I pitched last year. Do I have a case?
Glaser: "This scenario requires considering several factors. If you pitched your project to the studio that 'greenlit' (i.e., authorized production) the 'mirror' film, you should be able to prove that it had 'access' to your material, often the most difficult element to establish. However, you must also show that the film truly 'mirrors' your pitch. Ideally, it will have few or no unique or original elements (e.g., plot ideas, characters and language) aside from what you pitched. If you can show both access and this substantial similarity, two legal theories can be used to obtain redress. First, under U.S. copyright laws, unique verbal or visual expressions are protected. You might be able to prove copyright infringement without showing exact duplication if the essential creative aspects of the film 'mirror' your pitch. If it is primarily your unique or original ideas (without substantial transformation) that predominate the film, the other potentially available legal theory is that when you and the studio agreed to the pitch meeting, you had an actual or 'implied' agreement that the studio would not use your material without compensating you. Several simple practices before you reveal your project can help protect your rights and prove your case. Talk to a lawyer before you pitch."
Glaser, partner at Glaser Weil Fink Jacobs Howard & Shapiro, this year represented Lionsgate in successfully defending the Weinstein Co.'s claim that it owned rights to Oscar-winner "Precious."