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The Shape of Water

(14 posts)

  1. Ron
    Member

  2. Marian
    Member

    Plagiarism lawsuit https://www.chicagoreader.com/Bleader/archives/2018/03/05/the-shape-of-the-shape-of-water-plagiarism-lawsuit

    The author thought of the basic idea when he was a teenager and had seen Black Lagoon and found the monster very sympathetic. Since it was the same time as the play, but he and the director deny having seen or heard of the play, I think it's possible one or both saw a review of the play or a reference to it. One of those cases where the idea sticks in your mind while the source is forgotten. It's an interesting question as to where you draw the line on plagiarism.

    Posted 5 months ago #
  3. geoffhart1962
    Member

    As my memory systems age, and become progressively less reliable, the prospect of inadvertent plagiarism used to scare the crap out of me. I console myself with the notion that (i) my memory is too terrible to remember whole passages and (ii) that plagiarism refers only to the actual form and content, not the idea. Of course, there's a huge grey area about how closely you can emulate someone else's work before you are contributing nothing new of your own. Then it comes down to battling lawyers.

    If we could be sued for implementing someone else's idea in our own way, we'd have only about 1% of the fiction we have today, and would lose great combats of ideas (e.g., Heinlein's Starship Troopers vs. Haldeman's Forever War) that have advanced our field.

    Posted 5 months ago #
  4. Steve R.
    Member

    Somewhere deeply buried in my life stream, I had heard that there where only four basic story-lines. As part of the discussion on that concept, I had heard that subsequent stories based on the "original" stories in each story-line could constitute a form of "stealing" (plagiarism). But, if this approach had been taken seriously, as Geoff notes: "... we'd have only about 1% of the fiction we have today ... ". Fortunately, that concept (subsequent stories being considered theft) has not taken root.

    Nevertheless, I did a quickie internet search. Surprisingly, my random selection involved a story referencing Kurt Vonnegut. Evidently, he had prepared a thesis (that was rejected) on how many basic story-lines potentially existed (see the bottom of this post for the link). This was recently followed-up and reported on by The Guardian (July 13, 2016).

    "A new academic study has done exactly this, and gives us yet another reason to wish the great man were still with us to share his thoughts on it (and perhaps resubmit that thesis). Researchers from the University of Vermont’s Computational Story Lab fed 1,737 stories from Project Gutenberg – all English-language texts, all fiction – through a program that analysed their language for its emotional content.

    Putting – maybe – an end to a debate that has been ongoing for millennia, the researchers found there are “six core trajectories which form the building blocks of complex narratives”. These are: “rags to riches” (a story that follows a rise in happiness), “tragedy”, or “riches to rags” (one that follows a fall in happiness), “man in a hole” (fall–rise), “Icarus” (rise–fall), “Cinderella” (rise–fall–rise), and “Oedipus” (fall–rise–fall). The most successful – here defined as the most downloaded – types of story, they find, are Cinderella, Oedipus, two sequential man in a hole arcs, and Cinderella with a tragic ending."

    The Guardian story: "Three, six or 36: how many basic plots are there in all stories ever written?".

    Posted 5 months ago #
  5. Dr. Caligari
    Member

    geoff,
    When I'm not reading science fiction I sometimes practice law, and I remember being taught in law school that the classic definition of plagiarism vs. fair use comes from a 1930 case about whether the movie "The Cohens and the Kellys" infringed the copyright of the play "Abie's Irish Rose":
    " her copyright did not cover everything that might be drawn from her play; its content went to some extent into the public domain. We have to decide how much, and while we are as aware as any one that the line, wherever it is drawn, will seem arbitrary, that is no excuse for not drawing it; it is a question such as courts must answer in nearly all cases. Whatever may be the difficulties a priori, we have no question on which side of the line this case falls. A comedy based upon conflicts between Irish and Jews, into which the marriage of their children enters, is no more susceptible of copyright than the outline of Romeo and Juliet."

    Posted 5 months ago #
  6. Marian
    Member

    Interesting. However, here's the gist of the plagiarism complaint against The Shape of Water (from the article I posted a link to: "tells the story of a lonely janitorial cleaning woman who works the graveyard shift at a scientific laboratory facility that performs animal experiments for military use. She becomes fascinated by a fantastic intelligent aquatic creature, held captive in a glass tank. she forms a deep, loving bond with the creature, discovering that it can communicate—but chooses to do so only with her. When she learns that the authorities plan to kill the creature, in the name of scientific progress, she hatches a plan to liberate the creature in a rolling laundry cart and release it at a dock that feeds into the ocean, where it will finally be free."

    Posted 5 months ago #
  7. Dr. Caligari
    Member

    The allegations of a Complaint often don't match up with the actual evidence. But if the details are that close-- and they're not buried in a much longer narrative that is totally dissimilar from the movie-- then it sounds like a more serious plagiarism complaint (assuming of course that Del Toro or his co-author had access to the play-- an essential element of a copyright infringement claim).

    Posted 5 months ago #
  8. Marian
    Member

    Legally, why does it have to be one of them had read the play? According to the article, it was made into a tv show. I'm inclined to exonerate DelToro because he simply thought the idea was great when it was pitched to him by the writer who said it came to him when he was fifteen. The complaint is that that year was when the play (and then the movie of it) came out. So a teenaged boy who was thinking sympathetically about the Creature from the Black Lagoon read or heard a review of the play/show that gave the basic plot. Or a buddy could have described the great show he watched last night on tv. The article also said the play author had previously won the Pulitzer Prize so logically the play would have gotten a lot of buzz "Is it as good as his previous work?" Nowadays, of course we have email/twitter/ etc. I'm just rambling but Dr. Caligari, aren't we entering a wholly new legal area. If someone didn't read the work or watch it but heard it discussed in detail, is it plagiarism? I don't know but I think the advent of radio/tv and now social media means this will become much more common and a writer could honestly say they didn't remember hearing about it because so much information is pouring at us. Are we in new legal territory?

    Posted 5 months ago #
  9. Dr. Caligari
    Member

    The two elements of a copyright infringement claim are (1) substantial similarity of the defendant's work to non-public domain elements of the plaintiff's work and (2) access by the defendant to the plaintiff's work. You are correct that "access" may be easier to prove post-internet.

    In this case, the plaintiff's list of similarities neglects to point out that his "aquatic creature" was a dolphin, not a black lagoon monster.

    Posted 5 months ago #
  10. Steve R.
    Member

    Below is the link to a public letter (April 2008) that Orson Scott Card sent to J.K. Rowling asserting that she went overboard in suing a fan-based creation of a Harry Potter Lexicon guidebook. Orson Scott Card letter link.

    What is unfortunate about Rowling's lawsuit is that an author is attacking her fan base. Not a good public relations action. Your readers are the source of your income. Consequently an author needs to emotionally connect with their fan-base. Card noted, an author shouldn't ".. punish other people whose creativity might have been inspired by something I wrote.".

    Posted 5 months ago #
  11. Dr. Caligari
    Member

    'Shape Of Water' Makers Deny Ripping Off Pulitzer Playwright
    By Dorothy Atkins

    Law360 (May 8, 2018, 2:09 PM EDT) -- "The Shape of Water" director Guillermo del Toro and others involved in making the Oscar-winning film urged a California federal judge to toss a copyright suit filed by the son of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Zindel, arguing Monday that the hit flick has no substantial similarities to Zindel's play.

    In a motion to dismiss, Del Toro, producer Daniel Kraus, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and its affiliates argued that Zindel’s play “Let Me Hear You Whisper” has no legally cognizable similarities to the film. The play is a “short, straightforward,” three-person play about the evils of animal experimentation, while the film is a “sweeping, and decidedly adult,” blend of genres, according to the filmmakers.

    They argued, “In every relevant measure, the works are entirely different."

    The dismissal bid comes in a suit that David Zindel launched in February claiming the filmmakers ripped off his father’s two-act play to make the hit movie, which won four Oscars this year, including best picture and best director. The suit also alleges that MacMillan Publishing Group LLC’s recently released novel “The Shape of Water” infringes the play's copyright.

    Paul Zindel, who died in 2003, won the Pulitzer for drama in 1971 for "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds." He penned “Let Me Hear You Whisper” in 1969, and the play was published a year later in a classroom magazine for students called the Scholastic Voice. The suit claims “Let Me Hear You Whisper" and "The Shape of Water" both follow the story of a lonely janitor at a secret government laboratory during the Cold War who develops a loving relationship with an intelligent sea creature.

    But on Monday the filmmakers asked the court to toss the suit with prejudice. They argued that any similarity between the works arises out of the nonprotectable idea of a relationship between a human and an animal — or in the film’s case, a mythical humanoid creature — that scientists wish to kill or to study and experiment on. That idea has been used in a number of other popular feature films, including "E.T.," "Free Willy" and "Splash!," the filmmakers said.

    “As a matter of law, such alleged similarities in basic plot ideas or concepts cannot give rise to an infringement claim, and review of the works reveals that their respective treatments of this unprotectable concept is totally dissimilar,” the motion stated.

    The filmmakers also argued that the itemized list of alleged similarities that David Zindel submitted with his complaint is “embarrassingly inaccurate, misleading” and based on “gross misrepresentations.” The filmmakers added that the Ninth Circuit has repeatedly held that such lists are inherently unreliable and cannot support an infringement claim.

    While asserting that the case should be tossed based on the argument that the works have no substantial similarities, the filmmakers also emphasized that they never had access to a recently copyrighted, all-female, 1973 version of the play or that this version was widely disseminated.

    “Defendants strongly deny that Mr. del Toro, his co-writer Vanessa Taylor, defendant Daniel Kraus, or anyone involved in writing the film or developing its story ever saw, read, or even heard of the play prior to plaintiff asserting his claim,” the filmmakers said in a footnote.

    MacMillan filed its own motion to dismiss the suit Monday, echoing many of the arguments made by Fox, del Toro and Kraus. MacMillan noted that David Zindel sued two weeks before the book was published on March 6. Had he read the book, MacMillan said, he would have realized that there are no substantial similarities between his father’s seven-page play and MacMillan’s 314-page novel.

    A hearing on the motions is set for June 25.

    Counsel for MacMillan declined to comment Tuesday.

    Counsel for Zindel and the other defendants did not immediately respond Tuesday to requests for comment.

    Zindel is represented by Marc Toberoff and Douglas Fretty of Toberoff & Associates PC.

    Fox and its affiliates, del Toro, and Kraus are represented by Edward K. Lee, Jonathan Zavin and Jonathan Neil Strauss of Loeb & Loeb LLP. MacMillan is represented by Kelli L. Sager, Eric M. Stahl and Cydney Swofford Freeman of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

    The case is Zindel v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. et al., case number 2:18-cv-01435, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

    --Additional reporting by Kat Greene. Editing by Edrienne Su.

    Posted 3 months ago #
  12. SHamm
    Member

    The 1969 PBS adaptation of Let Me Hear You Whisper, featuring what appears to be an inflatable pool toy as the dolphin, is available for viewing on YouTube in four segments of under twenty minutes each.

    Posted 3 months ago #
  13. Dr. Caligari
    Member

    'The Shape of Water' Escapes Copyright Infringement Suit
    By Dorothy Atkins

    Law360 (July 24, 2018, 6:30 PM EDT) -- A California federal judge on Monday tossed a copyright suit against "The Shape of Water" director Guillermo del Toro and others who made the Oscar-winning film, finding that the hit flick isn't substantialy similar to a play by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Paul Zindel.

    In a 17-page order, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson said Zindel's play "Let Me Hear You Whisper" and the film share the "basic premise" that follows an employee at a scientific facility who decides to free a creature that is subjected to scientific experiments. However, that concept is too general to be protected, the judge said.

    "The basic sequence of an employee developing a connection with a test subject, deciding to free it, making a plan and attempting the escape directly stem from the unprotectable basic plot premise of the employee deciding to free the test subject, and therefore that sequence is not protectable," the order said.

    The dismissal marks an end to a suit that Zindel's son, David Zindel, launched against Del Toro, producer Daniel Kraus, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and its affiliates in February. The suit claimed the filmmakers ripped off Zindel's two-act play about a dolphin held captive in a military lab to make the hit movie, which won four Oscars this year, including best picture and best director. The suit also says MacMillan Publishing Group LLC's recently released novel "The Shape of Water" infringes the play's copyright.

    Paul Zindel, who died in 2003, won the Pulitzer for drama in 1971 for "The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds." He wrote "Let Me Hear You Whisper" in 1969 and the play was published a year later in a classroom magazine for students called Scholastic Voice. It also aired on a public television station. The suit claims "Let Me Hear You Whisper" and "The Shape of Water" both follow the story of a lonely janitor at a secret government laboratory during the Cold War who develops a loving relationship with an intelligent sea creature.

    In May, the filmmakers asked the court to toss the suit for good. They argued that any similarity between the works arises out of the nonprotectable idea of a relationship between a human and an animal — or in the film's case, a mythical humanoid creature — that scientists wish to kill or to study and experiment on. That idea has been used in a number of other popular feature films, including "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial," "Free Willy" and "Splash," the filmmakers said.

    On Monday, Judge Anderson agreed with the filmmakers, finding that the works aren't similar enough to be protected. The judge said there are some minor similarities between the two works. For example, the main characters are both janitorial workers and the escape plan in both stories involve the use of a laundry cart. However, the judge said, the similarities generally end there.

    The judge also noted that the escape was successful in the film, but not in the play, and the film has multiple story lines that are not in the play. Also, the play is based entirely in a laboratory in New York City, but the film is set in Baltimore at multiple locations that were not limited to the government facility, he said. The two works also explore different themes and have different moods, the judge said.

    "Although both works to some extent include the theme that one must look beyond appearance and status to a person's true character, that theme follows naturally from the works' shared basic premise and therefore does not show substantial similarity," the order says.

    Ultimately, the judge said none of the characters in the play are "sketched out" enough to be independently copyright protected and many of the characters in the film aren't even in the play.

    The judge dismissed the suit and concluded that because the works aren't similar "as a matter of law," there is no point in allowing Zindel to amend his complaint.

    Counsel for Zindel and the defendants did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

    Zindel is represented by Marc Toberoff and Douglas Fretty of Toberoff & Associates PC.

    Fox and its affiliates, del Toro, and Kraus are represented by Edward K. Lee, Jonathan Zavin and David Grossman of Loeb & Loeb LLP. MacMillan is represented by Kelli L. Sager, Eric M. Stahl and Cydney Swofford Freeman of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

    The case is Zindel v. Fox Searchlight Pictures Inc. et al., case number 2:18-cv-01435, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

    --Additional reporting by Kat Greene. Editing by Stephen Berg.

    Posted 3 weeks ago #
  14. Ron
    Member

    The judicial opinion seems sound to me.

    Posted 3 weeks ago #

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