I’ve said it before: being in a band can be a cool idea, but it’s a legal relationship. If band members are serious about making money, even just from the occasional weekend gig, they need to put the terms of their agreement down in writing and have everyone sign it. When you rely on oral agreements, bad things are likely to happen.
The band Third Eye Blind just found that out the hard way.
As the NYTimes says, allegations of movie idea and script theft are as common as cocktail parties. Still, this article about a suit against Warner Bros. over the film Trouble With the Curve provides good insight into how these cases work and usually end up.
It’s hard to prevail in a case like this because the law offers little inherent protection to ideas. A movie about baseball and baseball scouts could take any number of forms. Indeed, back in the 1990s here in South Bend, Indiana we had a federal lawsuit alleging the writers of Twister stole the story from a local writer. The suit sought an injunction to prevent the movie’s release. I was able to read both scripts, and while they both involved storm chasers and tornadoes, that’s about as far as the similarities went.
So what drives these lawsuits? Is it desperation on the part of individuals longing to get appropriate credit for their works, or is it something else? Are these suits designed to raise the visibility of aspiring writers? Or are people looking to make a quick buck?
In the Twister lawsuit, commendably, once the parties were able to see each other’s scripts, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit.
The New York Times reports that the justices have agreed to hear an appeal for copyright infringement that was perhaps brought too late. The daughter of a novelist who penned a book called “Raging Bull” about the life of Jake LaMotta brought suit in 2009 against Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, the studio that released the film. The problem? The film (and thus, arguably the script) was created in 1980.
The Copyright Code provides for a three-year statute of limitations, but that limitation period starts again every time there is an infringement. Thus, arguably, each time MGM sells a DVD of “Raging Bull” the limitations period is refreshed.
In this case, though, the lower court dismissed the lawsuit on the equitable doctrine of laches. This doctrine says that at times, fairness and justice require a party to not sit around on his or her rights before filing suit.
This case will be interesting to watch as the ruling could affect more than just copyright cases.
Here are some of the more interesting stories found over at The Hollywood Reporter within the last several days.
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