Judge rules "Disturbia" did not copy "Rear Window"

Tue Sep 21, 2010 9:04pm EDT
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Director Steven Spielberg and his DreamWorks movie studio on Tuesday won the dismissal of a copyright infringement lawsuit that claimed their 2007 thriller "Disturbia" stole the plot of Alfred Hitchcock's film "Rear Window".

The Sheldon Abend Revocable Turst, which owns the rights to the 1942 Cornell Woolrich short story "Rear Window", sued Spielberg, DreamWorks and distributors Paramount Pictures in 2008.

Lawyers for the Trust left by the late Hollywood producer Abend claimed Hitchcock had properly obtained the right to turn the Woolrich story into his 1954 classic "Rear Window". But DreamWorks had not received such permission when making "Disturbia."

Both movies are murder mysteries featuring a man staring from his window at a neighbor.

A New York federal judge ruled on Tuesday that although there were some similarities between the 1942 book, the Hitchcock movie and "Disturbia", none of them were actionable under U.S. copyright law.

"The main plots are similar only at a high, unprotectible level of generality," New York District Court judge Laura Taylor Swan wrote in her ruling that dismissed the complaint.

"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 humor and teen romance," the judge added.

"Disturbia", which starred Shia LaBeouf, made $117 million at worldwide box offices.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant and Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

<p>Cast member Shia LaBeouf poses at the premiere of "Disturbia" at the Mann's Chinese theater in Hollywood April 4, 2007. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni</p>