Sunday, April 19, 2015

Federal judge in Frozen lawsuit will not ‘Let it Go’

A lawsuit over the trailer to the highly-regarded animated film, Frozen, is causing The Walt Disney Company quite a headache as Disney attempts to get it dismissed.

Kelly Wilson, the creator of a short 2D computer-animated film entitled The Snowman, brought the copyright lawsuit in March 2014 with alleging that the Frozen teaser-trailer was substantially similar her film. The bar on showing similarity in copyright cases is usually quite high, but in July 2014, California federal judge Vince Chhabria ruled on Disney’s motion to dismiss stating that "the sequence of events in both works, from start to finish, is too parallel to conclude that no reasonable juror could find the works substantially similar."

Disney made another attempt to beat the lawsuit on summary judgment, which included a forensic analysis (i.e., who viewed the video, where watchers were geographically located, how long they watched) of YouTube records of The Snowman and Frozen. Disney argued the creators of the Frozen trailer lacked access to Wilson's work. Disney's lawyers also attempted to introduce denials from witnesses they'd ever seen The Snowman. This argument failed on multiple points as well.

In court papers detailing his April 2015 decision in denying Disney’s summary judgment motion, Chabbria cited the 2011 San Francisco International Film Festival where The Snowman screened four times, saying roughly 16 Pixar employees who were heavily involved with the creation of Frozen attended the festival and viewed The Snowman. He stated that there is a genuine factual dispute over whether the creators of the Frozen trailer had access to Wilson’s work, stating that “[th]e connection between The Snowman and people involved in creating the Frozen trailer is fairly close.”

There is one more bizarre connection between the two films. "Wilson and her co-creator sent numerous job applications to Disney and Pixar, some of which included images from or references to The Snowman," writes the judge.
And with that, the case seems likely to be headed to trial, or Disney could decide to settle instead of racking up a hefty legal bill. Disney is hoping that the judge will also deny Wilson’s own motion for summary judgment, which argues that that the works are so "strikingly similar" that they could not have been created independently.
The judge says a reasonable jury could go either way, and a trial has been tentatively scheduled for October.

- Sarah Wobken 

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