(CN) – The 8th Circuit has rejected an author’s claim that the YMCA stole his idea for a summer camp play.
The circuit affirmed a Nebraska district court’s ruling against Tom Frye, declaring that his learning-based play, “Kastleland,” was “not substantially similar” to “KnightQuest,” which was written by YMCA camp director, Russ Koos.
“‘Kastleland’ and ‘KnightQuest’ are both interactive plays conducted at the same YMCA summer camp and employing a medieval theme,” Judge David Hansen wrote for the three-judge panel. “In each play, campers are invited to join the characters on a quest and are guided through multiple challenges where they can acquire certain skills necessary to defeat the play’s antagonists. The YMCA’s employment of that general idea cannot form the basis for a copyright infringement claim.”
Frye, a freelance author, developed his play for an “adventure trails” learning program for YMCA’s Nebraska-based Camp Kitaki in 1986. The interactive play helped campers grasp the importance of courage, nobility and self control. Another version of the play warned against the dangers of drug abuse.
After Frye left the YMCA, he disputed the organization’s right to continue producing “Kastleland.” The YMCA then “agreed not to infringe on Frye’s copyright in ‘Kastleland,'” while “Frye agreed not to enter onto YMCA property without permission.”
But in 2007, ‘KnightQuest” was introduced into the camp program. The following year, Frye accused the YMCA of copyright infringement, even though he never saw the play or read a script.
The district court threw out the suit because it found that characters in “Kastleland” were “skeletal archetypes,” and ruled that the play was made up of “scènes à faire” – generic elements in a plot that are unprotected under copyright law.
The appeals court agreed.
“The challenges, acquisition of skills, and use of the skills to defeat evil characters are ever-present in the hero’s journey. Most of the characters in each play are standard to a medieval theme. Other elements, such as the opening and closing campfires and carnival-like games, are dictated by the summer camp setting,” Hansen wrote.
“After filtering out these ideas and scènes à faire, we agree that any remaining similarities between the two plays are insubstantial.”