Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Groundhog Day Litigation

"This is one time where television really fails to capture the true excitement of a large squirrel predicting the weather." - Bill Murray in Groundhog Day

Happy Groundhog Day to all! 
    In 1995, the movie was the subject of litigation. Author Leon Arden brought an unsuccessful copyright infringement suit arguing that in his novel, “One Fine Day,” a man lived the same day over and over, as was the case in the movie. The federal district court granted summary judgment to Columbia Pictures. Here is an excerpt from the opinion:

Defendants' motion is granted, for no reasonable jury could find that the two works are substantially similar within the meaning of the copyright laws. Indeed, the copyright laws do not protect ideas, but only particular expressions of ideas. Although the Novel and the Film are based on the same idea, a man trapped in a day that repeats itself over and over, the two works express that idea in very different ways. The Novel is dark and introspective, featuring witchcraft and an encounter with God. It is marked, for example, by an explosion on an airplane that kills 192 people, the rape of one young woman, and the suicide of another. These tragic events recur as the day repeats itself over and over again. In contrast, the Film is essentially a romantic comedy about an arrogant, self-centered man who evolves into a sensitive, caring person who, for example, in his repeating day, saves a boy falling out of a tree, changes a flat tire for several elderly women, and learns to play the piano. Any similarities between the Novel and the Film relate only to unprotectible ideas, concepts, or abstractions. Accordingly, the complaint is dismissed.

Arden v. Columbia Pictures, Inc., 908 F. Supp. 1248 (1995)

The book sounds unattractive. The Amazon website offers no customer reviews. You can buy a used copy for .02 cents.


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