‘Disturbia’ Didn’t Copy|’Rear Window,’ Judge Says

     (CN) – The 2007 Steven Spielberg film “Disturbia” did not copy from Alfred Hitchcock’s classic “Rear Window” and the short story on which it was based, a federal judge in Manhattan ruled.

     U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain found that “the main plots are similar only at a high, unprotectible, level of generality.”
     The lawsuit was brought by a trust that owns the rights to the 1942 short story “Rear Window,” also know as “It Had to Be Murder.” Spielberg and his company DreamWorks were among the defendants named in the complaint.
     The suspense thriller “Disturbia,” starring Shia LaBeouf, bears similarities to the general plot of “Rear Window,” but not enough to support a copyright claim, the judge concluded.
     “There is no substantial similarity between the total concept and feel of the short story and that of Disturbia,” Judge Swain wrote. “Where Disturbia is rife with subplots, the short story has none. The setting and mood of the short story are static and tense, whereas the setting and mood of Disturbia are more dynamic and peppered with humor and teen romance.”
     The Cornell Woolrich-penned story was published in Dime Detective Magazine.
     Paramount Pictures’ predecessor obtained the rights to the story in 1953 and made it into a film a year later with James Stewart and Grace Kelly starring, and Hitchcock directing.
     “Rear Window” was nominated for four Academy Awards in 1955, including best screenplay and best director.
Attorney’s for the trust submitted thousands of pages of exhibits that included expert reports, previous drafts of the screenplay, and copies of media articles and film critics’ reviews likening “Disturbia” to “Rear Window.”
     The plots are strikingly similar: Both stories follow a man confined to his home who begins spying on his neighbors to stave off boredom, only to become convinced that one is his neighbors is a murderer.
     But when comparing the short story with “Disturbia,” Judge Swain said she found many distinctions in the total concept and feel, theme, characters, plot, sequence, pace and setting.
     “The expression of the voyeur-suspicion-peril-vindication plot is quite different in the two works,” the judge wrote, granting Spielberg & Co.’s motion for partial summary judgment. “This broad plot idea, or premise, is not a protectable element.”
     “Disturbia” grossed more than $80 million at the U.S. box office.

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