Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A $40 Million Loss (Or An Interesting Lawsuit, Part 2, or More Reasons to Hate IP Law)

Last year, in June 2007, a lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by Deborah Novak and John Witek against Warner Bros over the movie We Are Marshall. (Here is the original post about this case.) Novak and Witek were seeking $40 million in the suit, most of it based on a theory of copyright infringement.

Yesterday, the court ordered the case dismissed after the judge granted the defendant's motion for summary judgment in the case. Novak and Witek had argued that Warner Bros, in making the movie, had lifted sequences from their earlier documentary film after the two sides could not come to an agreement. Novak and Witek's counsel argued that even though the film re-shot events which were in the public record, they did so in such a way as to make them substantially similar enough to constitute copyright infringement.

Judge Gary Allen Feess rejected this argument. As he pointed out early on in his 39 page order, copyright laws only protect only "an author’s original expression and not historical facts or events...." From there it all goes downhill for Novak and Witek's case.

Thankfully, historical facts remain uncopyrightable.

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