SECOND CIRCUIT AFFIRMS DISMISSAL OF SCREENPLAY INFRINGEMENT INVOLVING “LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS”
Steven T. Lowe
On September 18, 2018, the Second Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a suit that accused Dreamworks and Simon & Schuster of stealing a screenplay that was used for “Light Between Oceans.”
The Second Circuit found that there were not enough similarities between the screenplay written by Joseph Nobile (“Nobile”) entitled “The Rootcutter,” and the best-selling novel, later turned movie, entitled “The Light Between Oceans,” and that the similar elements were “either unpredictable ideas or are inevitable scenes for the common premise.”
According to Nobile’s complaint, both his screenplay and the allegedly infringing novel feature parents living on a remote island in the 20th century who deal with their inability to have a child and struggle through miscarriages. In both stories, a boat arrives with a dead or dying parent and a baby, whom the protagonists adopt, and later deal with the repercussions of doing so.
The court ruled that these similarities are natural elements that follow the inherent premise and are not indicative that one creator took those elements from another. Further, the court also addressed that the course of events that leads the couple to lose the baby in each work is also different.
The three-judge panel also affirmed the award of attorneys’ fees, rejecting Nobile’s arguments that they were unreasonable and should not have been awarded.
Author’s Comment: If one examines the facts of this case, including the opportunities for defendants to access the plaintiff’s screenplay and the quantity and quality of the similarities, this is an extremely unfair and unreasonable result especially where the plaintiff ended up owing defendants money for asserting the claim.
Representatives for Nobile, Simon & Schuster, Watts, Dreamworks and ABC could not immediately be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
Nobile is represented by Daniel J. Brooks of Scarola Zubatov Schaffzin PLLC.
Watts and Simon & Schuster are represented by Elizabeth Anne McNamara and Jeremy Chase of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.
DreamWorks II Development Co. LLC, Storyteller Holding Co. LLC D/B/A Amblin Partners and ABC Inc. are represented by David L. Goldberg and David Halberstadter of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP.
The case is Nobile v. Watts et al., case number 17-3752, in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is a boutique entertainment and business litigation firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The Firm has extensive experience handling cases involving entertainment law, having provided top quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized in multiple publications for its many achievements and high ethical standards, including Martindale-Hubbell and Super Lawyers.
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