THE PROTECTION OF BIOGRAPHICAL WORKS

Can we freely write, publish or tell the lives of famous people?

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On this point the Court of Milan (IP Section) recently rendered a descision to settle a dispute between two authors (Antonio Prestigiacomo and Marcello Sorgi) on the life of the Sicilian Prince Raimondo Lanza di Trabia, the man who invented the soccer transfer market and who was Rita Hayworth's lover and a close friend of Onassis.

The Court ruled that in the case of biographical works of well-known personalities, the facts and events that affected them belong to the common patrimony and are not autonomously monopolizable by anyone. Copyright protection protects instead the formal choices, the stylistic and editorial techniques, created by an author.

The Court ruled that the text of plaintiff Antonio Prestigiacomo, "The Restless Prince. The life of Raimondo Lanza di Trabia "undoubtedly enjoys copyright protection both in terms of originality and novelty. As for the originality, Prestigiacomo’s Book is in fact configured as the personal result of the harmonization of real facts, also historical, and true facts, organized and stylistically reworked with a particular technique. The text is in fact the fruit of the alternation, in the narrative fabric, of interviews articulated in questions and answers, clearly identifiable by the presence of the quotation marks, made by the author to various characters who have had direct knowledge of the Prince.

However, the Court ruled that with respect to the identity of the main character and of many events narrated, there is a certain distance between the two stories, so to believe that they are autonomous creative works, belonging to different genres, each individually protected.

The work of Prestigiacomo cannnot in the end be considered plagiarized by that of Marcello Sorgi and that the biographical works of well-known personalities, but not with reference to the facts and the events that concerned them,are not monopolizable.

The Shape of Water accused of Plagiarism.

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As the Academy Awards night apporaches, controversy grows around the films selected by the Jury.

"The shape of water", the film by Guillermo del Toro, nominated for 13 Academy Awards, is accused of plagiarism: the film would be based on the 1969 play 'Let Me Hear You Whisper' of the Pulitzer Prize Paul Zindel . The legal action against the film's director, producer and movie house was presented by David Zindel, the son and heir of the famous playwright, who blames them for not having "shamelessly copied the story, the elements and the characters" of his father's comedy, even using the same words.

 The word is now up to the Court, called to determine whether Zindel's allegations are founded. However, it is not the first time in Hollywood that there have been battles on accusations of plagiarism, especially in the presence of films of expected success.

The classic Western by Sergio Leone For a handful of dollars is one of the peaks of its kind, thanks to the incredible performance of Clint Eastwood, a tramp gunner who, during his wanderings, ends up in the middle of a conflict between two families in a small village on the border with Mexico. Unfortunately, the film is also an unauthorized remake of a film by Akira Kurosawa entitled Yojimbo. Kurosawa sent Leone a letter saying "Nice movie, but it was my Movie", and sued him asking for a percentage of the proceeds. The two agreed for a reimbursement of 100 thousand dollars and 15% of profits worldwide.

Another striking case was that of Terminator. Harlan Ellison is one of the most litigious authors in the American science fiction world, and there are now dozens of lawsuits against people accused of stealing his ideas. However, the lawsuit he filed against James Cameron for The Terminator was slightly different. Ellison wrote an episode of Beyond the Limits called Demon With a Glass Hand, which told the story of a robot soldier who, disguised as a human, is sent back in time. Orion Pictures decided to pay compensation before the case arrived in court, and Ellison earned money and was credited to the film.

Last we hanve to mention the case of "Coming to America” a movie starrign Eddie Murphy.

In 1982, the well-known screenwriter Art Buchwald wrote a treatment for Paramount entitled King for a day, in which the protagonist was a rich and arrogant African ruler who traveled to America. The protagonist should have been Eddie Murphy. Paramount bought the treatment and spent a few years in a vain attempt to find someone who wrote the screenplay before leaving the project in 1985. The rights returned to Buchwald, which sold them to Warner Brothers. Later Paramount made a film with Eddie Murphy who played the part of a rich and ignorant African ruler traveling to the United States. The film was titled The Prince Looking Wife. Buchwald was neither paid nor credited, so he sued but Paramount agreed privately with him for an unknown figure.