‘Nightcrawler’ Makers Win Suit Over Murder-Filming Stringer Idea

Written August 26, 2020

The US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit on August 19, 2020, held that the 2014 film “Nightcrawler” starring Jake Gyllenhaal differed enough from another movie about a murder-filming news freelancer in Los Angeles for the movie’s makers to dodge copyright infringement claims. Dutcher v. Bold Films LP, 10th Cir., No. 19-04126, 8/19/20.

Richard Dutcher made “Falling” in 2007, which like Bold Films LP’s “Nightcrawler,” is about a Los Angeles stringer who records progressively more violent crimes and films a murder without assisting the dying victim.

Bold Films sued, and a Utah federal court ruled that the movies weren’t substantially similar after filtering out the elements that are ineligible for copyright protection. The court also noted differences in the films’ remaining protectable elements, including their overall plots, themes, main characters, female leads, and murder scenes. “Falling” also contained “heavy religious overtones” that “Nightcrawler” lacked. The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s analysis.

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