Federal Judge Dismisses ‘The Shape of Water’ Copyright Infringement Lawsuit; Fox Searchlight Entitled to Legal Fees

In January, we learned that writer Paul Zindel’s son, David Zindel, had accused The Shape of Water of being “obviously derived from” his father’s play, Let Me Hear You Whisper. In February, Zindel officially sued Fox Searchlight, Twentieth Century Fox, writer/director Guillermo del Toro, and associate producer Daniel Kraus for copyright infringement during the same week where Academy Awards voters were casting their votes. The controversy did not stop the film from winning four Oscars (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Music Score, Best Production Design), and now Zindel’s case has been settled for once and for all.

Deadline reports that Federal Judge Percy Anderson dismissed the case with prejudice and determined that the defendants, “are entitled to recover the costs of their suit.” The dismissal was granted in response to a motion filed to dismiss the suit by the defendants. Edward K. Lee wrote the following defense of The Shape of Water, which was considered by Judge Anderson when contemplating the case:

“Any “similarity” between these vastly different works derives from the non-protectable idea of a relationship between a person and an animal (in the case of the Play) or mythical humanoid creature (in the case of the Film) that scientists wish to kill and/or study and experiment on—an idea that has previously been the subject of numerous films, including Free WillyStarmanSplash!Project X, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” 

Hopefully, now that this very messy and very public case has been dismissed, The Shape of Water can go back to being known by cinephiles as one of the best films of 2017, and Paul Zindel can go back to being known by avid readers and reluctant ninth graders as the author of the beloved, timeless page-turner, Pigman. 

Stay tuned to Horror News Network for more public accusations of plagiarism and copyright infringement over stories featuring the non-protectable idea of a relationship between a person and an animal and/or mythical humanoid creature as soon as they break!




John Evans
John Evans
John has loved movie monsters for as far back as he can remember. He's since collected up as many comics, statues, and autographed material related to movies and music that he can get his hands on. He is particularly interested in the critical and analytical discussion of the best stories the horror genre has to offer. One of his largest works on the topic is a study on the portrayals of people with disabilities in horror films.

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