When is it playful homage and when it is copyright infringement? The basis of a new lawsuit alleges that Steven Spielberg and Dreamworks lifted the plot, characters and protagonist for the studio’s 2007 hit, Disturbia, from the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic Rear Window. Note that Spielberg personally did not work as a director or producer on this production. More specifically, the lawsuit claims that Dreamworks should have sought the rights to the short story, “Murder From a Fixed Viewpoint,” the source material from which the Hitchcock film was adapted.
“In the Disturbia film the defendants purposefully employed immaterial variations or transparent rephrasing to produce essentially the same story as the Rear Window story,” the lawsuit said.
When Disturbia was released, comparisons between the two films were widespread amongst critics and the marketing did little to hide the similarities, going so far as to encourage them. Perhaps our readers can clarify, but according to Wikipedia and other sites, it was the short story, “It Had to Be Murder,” written by Cornell Woolrich, the same author as “Viewpoint,” that was the basis for Rear Window. In 1990, a copyright case regarding “Murder” and future movie rights went to the U.S. Supreme Court, with the ruling going in favor of the short story’s owner, a literary agent named Sheldon Abend. The Sheldon Abend Revocable Trust is at the center of this new lawsuit as well.
Rear Window has inspired countless films and TV shows since its release. Brian De Palma arguably and infamously made a career out of borrowing from this film (see Body Double and Sisters) and Hitchcock, but Disturbia went the extra mile. The phrase “modern update” is applicable. As the lawsuit points out: Both are murder mysteries beginning with a man who, while peering from his window, witnesses strange behavior in the home of his neighbor. Switch up James Stewart’s leg injury for Shia LaBeouf’s house arrest ankle monitor and so forth.
Discuss: What do you think? Obviously, the suing party is seeking compensation, but do the similarities warrant a lawsuit? Homage or plagiarism?
Shia LaBeouf plays Kale, a teenager who punches his teacher and is sentenced to house arrest. Trapped in his home without X-Box Live or iTunes (yay, product placement), Kale must find entertainment in the outside world. Using binoculars, Kale spies on the neighbors around him, finding a new hot girl next door and a potential serial killer. Paranoia and mix to create a fun thriller, without ever reaching the level of it’s Hitchcock predecessor, Rear Window.
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Justin.TV has been online for almost 25 days now. For those of you who don’t know, a guy named Justin has been wearing a camera 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He even wears it in the bathroom, and you can even watch him while he sleeps. The Internet Edtv concept is interesting. I’ve been watching (when I find some time) since day 2, and I can’t wait to see how far they take it.
Justin has been (trying to) fund the whole operation with sponsorships. He has advertisements all over his apartment (GoDaddy, Bawls) which is at least somewhat funding the project. One of the new sponsors is DreamWorks’ Disturbia. In addition to the standard web ad banner, Justin has plaster a couple of the posters on his wall and is also wearing a Disturbia shirt. What an interesting new way to market a movie. And it gets even better. As part of the promotion, Justin self-imposed himself to a house arrest (just like the movie) in his North Beach San Francisco apartment/headquarters. You can check out more photos from the sit-in at LaughingSquid (one of our favorite sites on the internet) or just go watch Justin.Tv for yourself. Warning: it’s addicting.
The 2007 South By South West Film Festival is in full force, and we have a round-up of the early buzz:
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We’ve been really excited about Disturbia since it was first announced. The film is basically a contemporary teen version of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. The trailer worried us a bit, as it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting. And now this poster… What were they thinking?
The poster, shown to the left, has the tag-line “Every Killer Lives Next Door to Someone.” As always, left click for higher resolution.
Directed by D.J. Caruso, the film stars Shia LaBeouf, David Morse, and Carrie-Anne Moss. The movie is scheduled to hit theaters on April 13th 2007.
Check out the official website at Disturbia.com.
We’ve been excited for quite some time about a movie almost nobody has heard of – Disturbia. Having enjoyed the chain of Shakespeare teen movie adaptations, I’ve always believed that Hitchcock was the next logical step. Well now a trailer has finally hit the web, and I’m kind of worried.
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