April 4, 2005
In this newsletter:
FEDERAL APPEALS COURT UPHOLDS DISMISSAL OF COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT CLAIM AGAINST MIRAMAX FOR THE MOVIE "ROUNDERS" WHILE ALLOWING A STATE CLAIM FOR BREACH OF AN IMPLIED CONTRACT TO MOVE FORWARD
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the District Court's dismissal of a copyright infringement claim filed by screenwriter Jeff Grosso against Miramax Films (Grosso v. Miramax Film Corp., 383 F.3d 965 (2004)). Grosso claimed that the movie "Rounders" infringed his copyright in a screenplay he wrote entitled "The Shell Game." He based his claim on the fact that he had pitched his screenplay to Miramax before "Rounders" was made. The court of appeals found that the two works were not substantially similar to support a claim of copyright infringement against Miramax. The only similarities between the two works were some of the language used, which the court found to be "unprotectible poker jargon." But the court did find that the circumstances in which Grosso's screenplay was pitched to Miramax might support a state claim for breach of an implied contract. The state contract claim was originally dismissed by the district court on the grounds that federal copyright law preempted it. The court of appeals found this judgment to be in error and reversed. Copyright law did not preempt the state claim because the state claim provided for protection of "different rights from those protected by copyright." Under California state law a contract may be implied when an idea is disclosed from one party to another "under circumstances from which it could be concluded that the offeree voluntarily accepted the disclosure knowing the conditions on which it was tendered and the reasonable value of the work." There exists no similar protection under federal copyright law, therefore making preemption improper. The U.S. Court of Appeals found that the circumstances in which the idea of "The Shell Game" was disclosed to Miramax were such that the claim should survive summary judgment. The claim was remanded to the district court for further proceedings.
LEARN SELF-DEFENSE FROM MARK AT UCLA
On April 16-17, Mark will be at UCLA teaching his popular course, "Self-Defense for Independent Filmmakers: Protecting Your Legal Rights." This two-day seminar teaches filmmakers how to anticipate problems before they arise in their negotiations with production and distribution companies. Students will learn how toand create incentives to encourage companies to live up to their agreements, including performance incentives, default penalties, and arbitration clauses. In the event of an unresolvable dispute, participants learn what remedies are available to enforce their rights. To register for the course, visit www.uclaextension.edu/ and type "Mark Litwak" in the search box.
CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR CLIENTS
Two of our clients are premiering their films at The Method Fest in Calabasas, California this week:
"Zooey," written and directed by our client, Sherman Lau, is an urban love story of a young prostitute and her husband trying to escape their life on the street. "Zooey" stars newcomers Sarah Louise Lilley and Xavier Jimenez. The official website is www.christmaswish.org/zooeyfilms/ZooeyFilm.htm . "Zooey" screens April 4 at 9:30PM at the Edwards Cinema 3.
"Fighting Words," written and directed by our client, Paul Edwards. The film centers around a gifted poet who is discovered by an attractive publisher. The two embark on a relationship that teaches both that love is more than words. The film stars C. Thomas Howell, Jeff Stearns, Tara D'Agostino and Fred Willard. The official website is www.fightingwordsmovie.com . "Fighting Words" screens April 5 at 2:00PM at the Motion Picture & Television Fund Louis B. Mayer Theater.
For more information about The Method Fest, visit www.methodfest.com/ .
COPYRIGHT & DISCLAIMER
Mark Litwak & Associates grants newsletter recipients permission to copy and distribute this newsletter and distribute it free of charge, provided that copies are distributed for educational and non-profit use, no changes or revisions are made, all copies clearly attribute the article to its author and include its copyright notice.
DISCLAIMER: While we are careful in preparing this newsletter, readers should consult with a lawyer before relying on any information. Case law and statutes are subject to change, and may not apply in all jurisdictions.
Copyright 2005, Mark Litwak