1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Santa Paws, the magic of Christmas and a posse of elves

Paws portrayed while meditating on the difficult
relationship between copyright and magical icicles
Just in time for Christmas, three writers have brought an action against Disney and Others before the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Missouri Eastern Division, claiming copyright infringement in their 1991 copyright children's story Santa Paws. In particular, they allege that 2009 and 2010 Disney film screenplays and direct to home video motion pictures Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws and The Search for Santa Paws (the "Santa Paws Films") are unauthorised copies of their script and ask the Court order an accounting of the revenues generated by the Santa Paws Films, as well as compensation for the harms suffered.

The main plot thread of the plaintiffs' script is about a dog which is given as a gift to Santa Claus, who names it "Paws". When the Christmas spirit in little boys and girls begins to dwindle (as evidenced by a magical Christmas tree whose lights begin to dim with the fading Christmas spirit) at the hands of the evil ice witch and her magical icicle, it is up to Paws to embark on an ultimately successful search and rescue mission to save Christmas.

The plaintiffs attempted to shop their script to entertainment industry contacts for the purpose of developing and commercially exploiting it. Among the others, a subsidiary of Disney expressed interest in producing Santa Paws. However, nothing came of it.

In 2009 and 2010 Disney began distributing the Santa Paws Films.

According to the plaintiffs, these are filled with substantial similarities to Santa Paws, including instances of verbatim lines of dialogue and screen activity at comparable key plot points, as well as similar uses of a magical icicle and magical Christmas tree in addition to the overarching similarity of expressing a story about Santa's new dog who saves Christmas in spite of the best efforts of a domineering and holiday-spiritless female antagonist.

As rightly pointed out by The Hollywood Reporter, the most entertaining part of the lawsuit is probably this statement by the plaintiffs' attorney:
"We understand Disney is investigating the matter. My clients feel strongly the investigation into the genesis of Santa Paws is something which should have been investigated by Disney and its posse of film making and distributing elves before they sucked in tens of millions of dollars in revenue. Santa knows who has been naughty and nice. It is my clients' position that Dickens could not have come up with a more Scrooge-like scenario. Why not just kick the crutch out from under Tiny Tim and sell it on eBay? It is my clients' genuine hope the true spirit of Christmas will prevail and the defendants will do the right thing for all who believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas."

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