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Thursday 14 December 2017

Spielberg wins battle over ‘Rear Window’ copyright

Steven Spielberg has won his two-year legal battle. Photo: Getty Images
Steven Spielberg has won his two-year legal battle. Photo: Getty Images

Dean Nelson

STEVEN Spielberg has won his two-year legal battle against claims his DreamWorks film studio stole the plot of Alfred Hitchcock's ‘Rear Window’.

The claim had been brought by the Sheldon Abend Revocable Trust, which owns the film rights to ‘Murder From a Fixed Viewpoint’, the Cornell Woolrich short story upon which Hitchcock's thriller was based.

‘Rear Window’ and Spielberg's film ‘Disturbia’ were “essentially the same story,” the trust alleged in its lawsuit against Spielberg, DreamWorks and Paramount Pictures.

Its case was boosted by strikingly similar scenes, in particular almost identical shots where characters look out from a window at a suspicious neighbour, one through a camera lens, the other through binoculars.

‘Rear Window’, from 1954, tells the story of a convalescing photographer, played by James Stewart, who suspects his neighbour of murdering his wife after he sees him wielding a saw and lifting a large box into a car.


In the 2007 film ‘Disturbia’, a high-school student, played by Shia LaBeouf, becomes suspicious of his neighbour as he watches him through binoculars while under house-arrest for attacking a teacher.

But while ‘Rear Window’ had a simple happy-ever-after ending, ‘Disturbia’ develops into a complicated riot of sub-plots.

A New York judge ruled that while the two films bore striking resemblances, ‘Disturbia’ was a far more elaborate film and its similarities were too general to be a breach of copyright. She said: “The main plots are similar only at a high, unprotectable level of generality.

“Where Disturbia is rife with sub-plots, 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 humour and teen romance,” she ruled. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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