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Canal+ Image UK Ltd. v. Lutvak
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
773 F. Supp. 2d 419 (2011)
Canal+ Image UK Ltd. (Canal) (plaintiff) owned a valid copyright to the film Kind Hearts and Coronets, which was based on the public domain novel Israel Rank. The novel involved a disinherited heir who eventually serial murdered his way into aristocratic inheritance. Steven Lutvak and Robert Freedman (defendants) entered into an exclusive licensing agreement with Canal to develop a musical based on the film. After Canal ultimately declined to produce the musical, Lutvak and Freedman developed their own musical adaptation of the novel. Both the film and the musical used one actor, called a composite victim, to portray all the heir’s murder victims. Canal sued Lutvak and Freedman for copyright infringement, alleging that, by also using a composite victim, the musical copied the film’s total concept and feel. Lutvak and Freedman moved to dismiss, arguing the film and musical were not substantially similar because (1) the film was a dark comedy with a sinister, cliffhanger ending, whereas the musical was a campy comedy with a lighthearted ending; and (2) the protected elements of the film, specifically changes to the plot and characters from the original novel, were not present in the musical.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Holwell, J.)
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