Who owns an idea?
Art Law

Who owns an idea?

THE SAME basic plotlines form the basis for thousands of stories. A joke has it that there are only two plots: a stranger arrives, or a man goes on a journey . Ursula Le Guin’s “A Wizard of Earthsea” and J. K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series both feature a young orphan boy who discovers he has magical powers, attends a wizarding school and defeats an evil adversary, but no one would argue that they tell the same story. (Much the same could be said of Luke Skywalker.) Several recent lawsuits regarding alleged copyright infringements raise an important question. When it comes to an overlap of theme, plot or character, how close is too close? “The Shape of Water” (pictured), the best-picture winner at this year’s Oscars, is the subject of a lawsuit brought by the estate of Paul Zindel, a Pulitzer prize-winning American playwright. The estate claims that Guillermo del Toro’s film “brazenly copies the story, elements, characters and themes” of Zindel’s play “Let Me Hear You Whisper” (1969). Both stories are set in a government-controlled laboratory during the cold war. Both feature a cleaner who develops a relationship with a captive sea creature, dancing in front of its […]

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