Oscar favourite in deep water

film copyright

Oscar season is fast approaching and the buzz around which films are going to steal the most awards has everyone talking. Merely being nominated for an Oscar is an expression of recognition and respect from those in the film industry, so when it was announced that ‘The Shape of Water’ was nominated for 13 awards it was safe to say it cemented itself firmly as an Oscar favourite.

Guillermo Del Toro, film director, screenwriter and producer, best known for the dark fantasy films that characterise his style such as Pan’s Labyrinth and The Devil’s Backbone, is the mind behind ‘The Shape of Water’. The film portrays a love story between a mute and a captured amphibious creature who is being held in a top-secret research laboratory.

Copyright infringement

It has recently emerged, however, that those behind ‘The Shape of Water’ have found themselves embroiled in a copyright infringement lawsuit, in particular, Guillermo Del Toro, Fox Searchlight and Daniel Kraus, the film’s producer.

The action comes from the family of the late Paul Zindel, the Pulitzer prize winning playwright. The lawyers for Zindel’s family have alleged that there are 61 similarities between ‘The Shape of Water’ and Zindel’s work ‘Let me Hear You Whisper’, which aired on screens almost 50 years ago, including parallel characters, themes and concepts. In their complaint, Zindel’s lawyers noted how both stories are set in the same era and depict the blossoming relationship between a female janitor and an aquatic creature being kept in a research facility. The complaint further alleges that both works have a ‘dreamy’ and ‘surreal’ disposition.

Del Toro has claimed he has never heard of the play and, along with Fox Searchlight, intends to strongly defend the claim and file a motion to dismiss. A spokeswoman for Del Toro, Fox Searchlight and Daniel Kraus has commented on the timing of the case, suggesting it coincides with the Oscar voting cycle as a likely tactic to put pressure on the parties to settle. Timing litigation for maximum effect is not at all an unusual tactic, however, that said, the lawyers for Zindel’s family have commented that the lawsuit was never timed to derail the film’s success, to do so would be against the interests of Zindel’s family who are seeking damages based on the film’s profits.

For further information or advice on copyright, please contact us.

Tidman Legal is a firm of intellectual property lawyers based in Edinburgh

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