05 August 2013

A Tale of Two Pandas—or Was It Three?

Last week the Hollywood Reporter noted the end of a lawsuit against Dreamworks concerning copyright claims on its movie Kung Fu Panda. A Massachusetts artist alleged that the studio had violated his copyright on a martial-arts panda character, registered in 2000. He could document that he had submitted his work to Dreamworks and received a form letter in reply saying that the company didn’t look at such work, but hadn’t received the full submission package back.

The plaintiff offered such exhibits as this, positioning one of his drawings alongside some images from Kung Fu Panda or its marketing.

However, Dreamworks’s lawyers came back with their own exhibits, including this juxtaposition of the plaintiff’s work alongside images from a Disney coloring book published four years earlier:
That obviously made it harder for the artist to maintain, as he had testified, that his own work was entirely original. The judge was already displeased that he had destroyed the paper and pixel trail leading up to the creation of his work just after seeing the first preview of Kung Fu Panda, when it would theoretically have been most important. Last week he withdrew his claim permanently.


rocketdave said...

What kind of artist destroys all their old work? As crummy as a lot of my old drawings are, I can't bear to get rid of any of that stuff.

J. L. Bell said...

The judge obviously didn't like that. At that point, he wrote, the future plaintiff had an obligation to keep material that would likely become legal evidence. The unstated suspicion appears that the plaintiff had destroyed material which would have weakened his case, like this example of tracing.

rocketdave said...

I wondered just how Dreamworks' lawyers happened to discover that fairly incriminating coloring book page, but having googled this guy and looked at a couple other examples of his art, it's kind of obvious that the smaller character's appearance was based on The Lion King's Timon, which likely helped narrow the search.