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Funky Films, Inc. v. Time Warner Entertainment Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
462 F.3d 1072 (2006)


Facts

Gwen O’Donnell (plaintiff) wrote a screenplay called The Funk Parlor. The Funk Parlor was set in Connecticut and featured a family-run funeral home. In the screenplay, the family’s patriarch, John Funk, Sr., dies suddenly and his two grown sons, John and Tom, inherit the family business. John had been living in Los Angeles, but he returns to Connecticut to help Tom revive the faltering business. A romance develops between John and Sophie, a neighbor. Sophie turns out to be a serial killer. She kills Tom. Later, John kills Sophie to save his own life. O’Donnell shared the script for The Funk Parlor with her chiropractor, who gave it to one of his friends, the President of Original Programming at HBO (defendant). Three months later, HBO hired a writer to develop a show for HBO entitled Six Feet Under. Six Feet Under was set in Los Angeles and featured a family-run funeral home. The family’s patriarch, Nathaniel Fisher, dies suddenly, and his two grown sons, Nate and David, inherit the family business. Nate returns from ventures in Seattle to help David run the funeral home. Nate and David have a sister, Claire. Nate helps take the family business in more creative directions and strikes up a romance with a woman named Brenda. David struggles with his sexuality. Claire struggles to find her place in the family, having chosen to not get involved with the funeral-home business. O’Donnell and Funky Films, Inc. (plaintiffs) sued HBO for copyright infringement. HBO moved for summary judgment, arguing that The Funk Parlor and Six Feet Under were not substantially similar. The district court granted HBO’s motion. The plaintiffs appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Fletcher, J.)

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