Hollywood Given License to Rip Off ‘Rear Window’ & Anything Else It Likes

If you saw 2007’s Shia Leboeuf starrer Disturbia, you probably noticed the debt that film owes to Alfred Hithcock’s Rear Window. Although many details were different, both share the same bedrock narrative: a bored shut-in takes to spying on his neighbors, one of whom he comes to believe is a murderer. The similarity was so obvious that no one was surprised when the owners of the short story on which Rear Window was based decided to sue Dreamworks over the film. It sounded like an open and shut case. Only it wasn’t.

THR is reporting a New York District Court has dismissed on summary judgment the lawsuit against the makers of Disturbia. “The main plots are similar only at a high, unprotectable level of generality,” wrote Judge Laura Swain. “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.”

Swain went on to conclude that “no reasonable trier of fact could find the works substantially similar within the meaning of copyright law.”

So there you have it Hollywood: everything is fair game now and licensing be damned! By the way, if you could serve me up a teenage version of Vertigo I’d appreciate it.

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