Script anachronism sinks idea-theft claim

by Walter Olson on January 24, 2006

Writers Ronnie Niederman and Judith Shangold sued Disney, claiming that in publishing “Summerland,” a novel by author Michael Chabon with a baseball theme, the entertainment giant’s Miramax Books subsidiary had ripped off one of their own 1995 idea submissions to Disney. Trouble is, the theatrical plot they claimed to have submitted in 1995 contained numerous references to the Palm Pilot personal organizer, a product not introduced until 1997. Citing “voluminous, independent and irrefutable evidence” that the plaintiffs did not create the treatment at the time they said they did, federal judge William H. Pauley concluded “that there was ‘clear and convincing’ evidence that the plaintiffs had committed a fraud on the court and ‘manipulated the judicial process.'” He dismissed their case and ordered them to pay Disney’s legal fees in an amount to be determined later. (Mark Hamblett, “Judge Blasts Bogus Proof, Rejects Claim Against Disney”, New York Law Journal, Jan. 18). Jonathan Edelstein comments at Head Heeb (Jan. 21).

{ 2 comments }

1 Deoxy 01.24.06 at 11:06 am

So, let me se if I get this straight:

If they had won the suit, they would get lots of money.

If they had lost the suit, it would have cost them little or nothing.

If they got busted for FRAUD, they have to pay the opposing side’s court costs…

Um, shouldn’t there be some kind of, you know, PUNISHMENT for committing fraud? Something besides just “the other side’s court costs”, which they should have had to pay with just a very weak case WITHOUT fraud.

2 Marty 01.24.06 at 4:38 pm

Interesting case. FWIW, i find references to “Palm Pilot” on Usenet newsgroups as early as Feb 1996.

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