Intellectual Property

Dodgeball: So Unoriginal Anyone Could Have Written It

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At first, it seemed quite plausible to me that Rawson Marshall Thurber, who wrote and directed the 2004 Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn comedy Dodgeball, stole ideas for the movie from a screenplay co-written by a struggling actor named David Price, who charges Thurber with violating his copyright. The idea of adults playing dodgeball as a spectator sport just seemed too weird to have been independently conceived by two different people around the same time. But then I learned that the spectator sport, which I had thought when I saw the movie was an entirely fanciful invention, actually exists. In fact, David Price's screenplay was based (very loosely) on his own experiences playing it.

So the basic idea is not unique. Still, some of the similarities between Price's screenplay and Thurber's are pretty striking, as U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin decided when she allowed Price's lawsuit to proceed. Part of Thurber's defense, The New York Times reports, is that "any similarities between the two scripts occurred because both relied on formulaic plot elements." Does every athletic underdog movie feature a fat misfit named Gordon and a coach in a wheelchair who dies in a bizarre accident and comes back as a ghost to offer advice?