Oscar winning film faces copyright infringement challenge

The Shape of Water recently won best picture at the Oscars. However, behind the scenes the filmmakers have been challenged by a copyright infringement lawsuit from the family of a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright.

It was recently reported that the relatives of 1960s playwright Paul Zindel have raised concerns that Guillermo del Toro’s 2018 film has “glaring similarities” to Mr Zindel’s 1969 play Let Me Hear You Whisper.

David Zindel, son of the playwright, told the Guardian “The glaring similarities between the film and our father’s play are too extensive for us to ignore and so we had to act.”

A BBC report stated that the family are challenging production company Fox Searchlight Pictures and director Mr del Toro in relation to at least 61 similarities between the two works. The complaint alleged that the similarities relate to “the story, elements, characters, and themes” purportedly shared by the two works, which are both set in the Cold War and follow female cleaners who form relationships with aquatic creatures.

A spokesperson on behalf of Fox Searchlight Pictures described the family’s claims as “baseless” and “wholly without merit.” They asserted that the complaint seemed timed to coincide with the Academy Award voting cycle in order to pressure the studio into settling the matter quickly.

The studio has said that it shall vigorously defend itself and the “ground-breaking and original film”. The outcome remains to be seen.

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Maung Aye
Maung is a partner in our Corporate and Commercial department. He joined Mackrell Turner Garrett following corporate law positions in London and in a leading regional firm in Essex. Maung read European Legal Studies at Lancaster University and the Università degli Studi di Trento and is a fluent Italian speaker.