May 13, 2019

Disney Wins Dismissal of ‘Pirates’ Copyright Suit

Munger, Tolles & Olson obtained dismissal for The Walt Disney Company on May 13, 2019 of a copyright infringement suit, in which a producer and two screenwriters claimed that Disney copied their spec script in all five of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films.  
In a lengthy order that considered all of the plaintiffs’ alleged similarities, Judge Consuelo Bland Marshall of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California dismissed the case with prejudice, concluding that there was little in common between the spec script and the Disney films. 

Plaintiffs had focused on their claim that their script had introduced the idea of “cursed pirates” in the franchise. Judge Marshall held: “The idea of cursed pirates is scenes-a-faire and unprotectable. Even if such an idea could be protectable, the complaint alleges that the screenplay incorporated ‘the basic elements of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride.’ The Disney theme park rides on which the screenplay is based feature skeletal pirates who speak, steer ships and find treasure.”

Munger, Tolles & Olson attorneys Melinda E. LeMoine, Jordan D.Segall and J. Max Rosen handled the case for Disney. They first succeeded in persuading the U.S. District Court in the District of Colorado to transfer the case to the Central District of California before prevailing on their motion to dismiss.