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Federal Judge Orders Trial to Proceed in Copyright Case Against Oscar Winner ``Shakespeare in Love''.

Entertainment Editors/Legal Writers


On Oct. 2, a federal court judge in Los Angeles ruled that copyright infringement claims should proceed to trial against the producers and distributors of Oscar winner "Shakespeare In Love."

The suit, filed in 1999 by writers Don Ethan Miller and Peter Hassinger and producer Kingsborough Pictures, alleges copyright infringement and breach of contract. (Miller et al. vs. Miramax Film Corp. et al., United States District Court, Central District of California, Case No. CV-99-08526 DDP)

In denying the defendants' motion for summary judgment, the court held, after reviewing the scripts, that a reasonable jury could conclude that "Shakespeare In Love" copies material and protected elements of the screenplay written earlier by Miller and Hassinger.

Universal Pictures repeatedly solicited Kingsborough Pictures and co-producer Larry Jackson to submit Miller and Hassinger's screenplay even after Universal had hired writer Marc Norman to write a love story about William Shakespeare for the studio.

According to the court, the plaintiffs' script, "The Dark Lady," presents a young William Shakespeare as a known writer suffering from writer's block just as he is under pressure to deliver a new play. He meets a beautiful woman from the nobility who is literate, educated, loves poetry and greatly admires Shakespeare's work, so much so that she can recite it from memory.

The audience and Shakespeare are introduced to the heroine at the performance of a play of the Bard's at Whitehall Palace. The woman has artistic ambitions of her own. Shakespeare and she enter into a passionate love affair threatened by her prior commitment to another man.

Shakespeare helps her realize some of her own artistic dreams, and she, in turn, inspires him to overcome his writer's block and create a major new female character. At the opening night of the new play, Will's lover is drafted to play the female lead, a part which she has not rehearsed, but knows by heart. She plays her part brilliantly, knowing it is for one time only.

Immediately after, Shakespeare's enemies converge on the theater and disrupt the triumphant event. The heroine must sail off to a life in the New World, as the disillusioned but emotionally enriched playwright goes on to create his greatest and deepest works.

"Kingsborough and the writers of `The Dark Lady' warned Universal in 1992 of the conflict, and later warned Miramax," said Glen Kulik, one of the attorneys who represents the plaintiffs. "Despite these warnings, the parties proceeded in 1998 to produce the film." By court order, the plaintiffs now have the right to access financial records of both studios for the purpose of analyzing and ascertaining potential damages.

Plaintiffs are represented in the action by Kulik and John Carmichael of Kulik, Gottesman & Mouton LLP in Los Angeles. Defendants are represented by Gail Title and Kristen Holland of Katten, Muchin & Zavis.

"Shakespeare in Love" is credited to writers Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard. It was produced by Donna Gigliotti, Marc Norman, David Parfitt, Harvey Weinstein and Edward Zwick, with production companies Bedford Falls, Miramax Film Corp. and Universal Pictures.
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Publication:Business Wire
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 4, 2001
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