Plagiarism Profiteers

So just before The Oscars were to be given out I heard that Fox Searchlight, Guillermo del Toro and others associated with the Oscar winner “The Shape of Water” are facing a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by the estate of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paul Zindel. The reason I’m writing this is because these sorts of lawsuits drive me bonkers.

I read the synopsis of Zindel’s play “Let Me Hear You Whisper” and it does seem eerily similar to del Toro’s movie but I question the timing of the lawsuit as well as the reasons behind the estate of Zindel (Paul Zindel’s children) and the validity too. I’m not saying that del Toro didn’t plagiarize Zindel…but then again maybe I am saying that del Toro did not plagiarize Zindel. Also I question the Estates’ timing in the lawsuit that came only a few days before The Oscars were handed out. This seems to me like Zindel’s Estate is trying to capitalize on an easy target because of the amount of money, potential or otherwise, that “The Shape of Water” would make by del Toro’s movie winning a bunch of Oscars. Which, by the way “The Shape of Water” did indeed win best picture among many others Oscars.

Yes they are similar but for Zindel’s Estate to sue del Toro you had better be sure that they are almost exactly the same, which they are not. This may seem like apples to oranges and off topic but it is not, in 1991 I illustrated a sketch of a man wearing a gas mask and holding flower and a few years later I used it for the cover of one of my books. Well a few years later (the early 2000’s to be exact) I was flipping through an art magazine and lo and behold I saw a Shepard Fairey piece that was eerily similar to mine. At first I was quite miffed, but after a few days I moved onto something else that I am quite sure was more important to be quite miffed about.

Could I sue Fairey? Yes. Should I sue Fairey? Maybe. Will I sue Fairey? Nope. Like I said I have more important things to worry about in my life than hire a lawyer, go to court over a piece of art that was similar to mine. Not to mention the potential colossal waste of time and money, even if I was successful in my lawsuit. Could del Toro be sued? Yes. Should del Toro be sued? Maybe. As stated earlier, I believe that these sorts of lawsuits are a colossal waste of time and money. Even if one side “wins” or is successful it still seems to me to be a colossal waste of time and money.

If I were a judge who presided over copyright infringement cases like Zindel’s Estate vs. del Toro I would most likely roll my eyes and mutter under my breath, “not another one.” For even if Zindel’s Estate is successful and proves without a shadow of a doubt that del Toro did indeed plagiarize Zindel’s Broadway play then the estate only wins financially. Morally and ethically these lawsuits are eerily similar to a pissing contest between two 5-year-old boys, with one screaming, “I did it first!” and the other screaming, “No, I did it first!”

From my vantage point these ridiculous lawsuits are totally void of ethics and morals because art, any and all art is totally subjective. And contrary to popular opinion, the real winners in frivolous lawsuits like these are not the disputing parties but the lawyers representing the disputing parties.



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