Christmas Magic Is Not Original, Judge Says

     ST. LOUIS (CN) – A federal judge tossed a lawsuit accusing Disney of swiping the idea for its “Santa Paws” movies.
     Check out Courthouse News’ Entertainment Law Digest.
     Ray Hartner, Richard Kearney and Ed Corno claimed they came up with the idea for a “Santa Paws” movie in 1991. The movie is about a gift dog for Santa Claus who saves Christmas from an evil villainess.
     The men said they copyrighted their work and started shopping the idea to moviemakers. They claimed Disney expressed interest in the project in 2006, but it never got off the ground.
     Disney released “Santa Buddies: The Legend of Santa Paws” in 2009 and “The Search for Santa Paws” in 2010. The plaintiffs said the movies copy much of their copyrighted work, down to the name of the dog and the villain.
     But U.S. District Judge Catherine Perry didn’t buy it. In her ruling for Disney, Perry said she couldn’t find enough similarities between the movies and the plaintiffs’ work.
     “At their most fundamental levels – and incidentally the level at which these works seem the most similar – these stories involve some sort of threat to Christmas and the Christmas spirit, and ultimately the main protagonist, a talking dog, saving Santa or Christmas. This is nothing more than a ‘general plot idea,’ which is not protectable,” Perry wrote, quoting 9th Circuit precedent.
     Perry acknowledged that the protagonists in both stories use a magical icicle or ice crystal to help save Christmas, but said the idea itself is not original.
     “Though the presence of a magical icicle or ice crystal is similar, the idea of magic in a Christmas story is not original, nor is the use of ice for that purpose original in a setting such as the North Pole,” Perry wrote.
     “Furthermore, most of the aforementioned similarities between the plaintiffs’ short story and the defendants’ works are not protected by copyright law” because they are simply ideas, she added.
     “For example, the idea of naming the dog ‘Santa Paws’ in a Christmas movie is merely that – an idea. The remaining aspects of the plot surrounding the Christmas dog are entirely dissimilar,” shw wrote.
     “The presence of Santa, elves, and other helpers and the setting of the North Pole in a Christmas story are standard,” she said.
     Albert Watkins, the plaintiffs’ attorney, told Courthouse News that his clients are evaluating alternative appellate action and will carefully scrutinize the third “Santa Paws” movie, which is set for release later this year.
     “It appears the court’s opinion was well thought out, consistent with legal precedent and crafted eloquently,” Watkins said in a statement. “That being said, my clients disagree with the subjective findings giving rise to a resounding victory for Disney. Tinker Bell should be very proud.”

%d bloggers like this: