Disney’s Win in ‘Pirates’ Copyright Suit Reversed by Ninth Cir.

Written July 24, 2020

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on July 22, 2020, revived a copyright suit brought by writers Arthur Lee Alfred II and Ezequiel Martinez Jr. and producer Tova Laiter alleging that Walt Disney Co. ripped off a screenplay for the first “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. Alfred v. Walt Disney Co., 9th Cir., No. 19-55669, unpublished 7/22/20.

Alfred and Martinez wrote their pirate screenplay in 2000. The writers submitted the screenplay to Disney through Laiter. The complaint said that Disney rejected the screenplay but didn’t return it, and released the allegedly similar “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl” in 2003.

The lower court dismissed the case, finding only “random similarities scattered throughout the parties’ works.”

However, the Ninth Circuit found there were enough similarities between the screenplay and the movie for the copyright claims to survive Disney’s motion to dismiss.

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