Copyright infringement claims in award winning movies has become a common practice. Movie producers across the world have come under fire for copyright infringement allegations made against them. The latest movie, to join this club is the Academy Award winner 'The Shape of Water'. The suit for copyright infringement has been filed by David Zindel, the son of Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Paul Zindel who claims that the movie's story line is similar to the play 'Let me hear you whisper'.
The story of the movie revolves around a mute cleaning lady working at a military research facility where the US government has held captive a creature of the sea; this lady upon knowing that the ultimate purpose of the government is to kill the creature she decides to put in action a plan to help the creature escape. The plot of the play written by Paul Zindel is that a lonely cleaning lady at a scientific laboratory befriends a dolphin that is captive at the facility; when she realises that the dolphin may be killed she plans to help the creature escape. It has been claimed that there are almost 61 similarities between the movie and the play. It is also the case of David Zindel that the play 'Let me hear you whisper' was adapted in to TV Show therefore, it is quite possible that the producers of the movie 'Shape of Water' were influenced by the same. It has been claimed by the movie producers that 1) they did not see 'Let me hear you whisper'; and 2) the subject of an individual coming in contact with a different creature and then helping it escape its captive situation is not a novel idea; in fact it has been the subject matter of several movies such as Free Willy, Born Free, Splash etc.
This is indeed an interesting case, since it dwells into the basics of the idea-expression dichotomy i.e. the play and the movie revolve under the common idea of freeing the captive creature however, the expression involved in the two works are different. In the movie, the protagonist falls in love with the creature during the process of freeing it whereas, in the play the bond between the protagonist and the dolphin is akin to a close friendship. Furthermore, apart from the basic outline of the story, the overall narration of the two movies is quite different. It is, however possible that it may be a case of sub-conscious plagiarism i.e. the producers of the movie at some point may have seen/read or heard about the play and during the making of the movie may have re-enacted such scenes/plots based on their subconscious recollection without recalling that it is identical to the play. This case has been filed before the United States District Court Central District of California and it will be interesting to observe the Court's ruling in this case.
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