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Sunday, 17 August 2014

Shattered copyright claims?

Last year, Angelina Jolie faced a copyright infringement action for the film In The Land Of Blood And Honey, which she directed. James Braddock, a Croatian author and journalist, claimed copyright infringement on his work The Soul Shattering. He said that one of the film producers had read his book and had entered into discussions with him to adapt the book into a film, a fact denied by Jolie. The book concerned a love story between two people, set in the time of the Bosnian war. The film had a similar storyline.

In March 2013, the US District Court of California ruled that there was no copyright infringement. The court noted various similarities between the works, such as the inclusion of escape and rape scenes in the plot, but said that Mr Braddock could not claim to have ‘invented the concept of rape as a war crime.’ The court also noted various differences, for example that the book focuses on ‘family, love and strength’ while the film depicts betrayal, revenge and tragedy. While both works illustrate events which took place during the Bosnian war, this could not constitute copying of Mr Braddock’s work as it related to a historical fact, in which there is no copyright.

Mr Braddock has now appealed the decision, saying that the court had ‘used a poor system to determine if Jolie had infringed on his copyright’. Mr Braddock said that his book, which had originally been written in Croatian, had not been translated accurately throughout. He explained that, when making its decision, the court did not look at his book as a whole, but only at individual passages. Some of these were inaccurately translated excerpts. His appeal is therefore based on the fact that he believes that the court took a wrong approach to reach its decision.

Hollywood has often seen actions for copyright infringements. A similar issue arose when The Last Samurai film was made. Two brothers Aaron and Matthew Benay complained that the script they had pitched to film directors had been copied and used without their permission. They filed a lawsuit, but the court eventually found no copyright infringement.

Angelina Jolie has not yet responded to Mr Braddock’s appeal.


Derek Freyberg said...

Central District of California - there are four Federal judicial districts in California. The Central District includes Los Angeles, which is why the case was there.
Braddock's appeal is pro se, and looks like it, with poor English, and what look like cut-and-paste quotations taken from an article or book on copyright, complete with the original reference numbers. He is basically trying to re-try the case; and I don't see that effort succeeding.

Anonymous said...

It is not impossible to imagine an authorised adaptation of books might fail in a copyright infringement case – the works are unrecognisable in the hands of some directors. The film adaptation will truncated the book, elements are dropped while others are developed. The film treatment is then subjected to various outside influences such as focus groups with script changes to suite the market. Perhaps it becomes optional to pay the author? If the authors name brings value then likely that name would be prominently displayed, conversely if the author is foreign and unknown why bother attributing the work to the author? Perhaps this is an example of such a situation. T.C.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 11:17,

Is this a question of distinguishing a derivative work from a (supposedly) separate creation that uses some pretty ancient plot concepts set in a recent historical context?

The question you ask, phrased oddly as a double negative, is not determinable to settle a copyright case. "Authorised" if present defeats the notion of infringement. Are you trying to ask a different question?

Anonymous said...

Apparently, for the film "The spy who loved me", Ian Flemming let them use only the name, and none of the plot of the book.

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