You might have thought that We Are Marshall seemed a lot like every other Inspiring Sports Drama you'd ever seen, but a pair of producers recently sought to prove in a court of law that it resembled a specific film -- one they'd made six years earlier.

That film, Ashes to Glory: The Tragedy and Triumph of Marshall Football (which IMDB has never heard of), was a documentary about the real-life events depicted in We Are Marshall. The doc's producers, Deborah Novak and John Witek, sued Warner Bros. for copyright infringement, fraud, and breach of contract, but a U.S. district court judge has ruled against them.

"Though the two works tell the story of the Nov. 14, 1970, airplane crash, that event, and the events that preceded and followed, are all matters of public record which cannot be copyrighted," the judge wrote in his decision, as reported by Variety.

Novak and Witek's claim was based on the fact that they originally negotiated with We Are Marshall's production company, Thunder Road, for rights to officially adapt their documentary into a fictional film. That deal fell through, and Thunder Road made the film anyway. The judge says that was OK, since the events were a matter of public record. So my question is, if nobody can own the rights to a historical event, why did Thunder Road bother negotiating to adapt the documentary in the first place? Just to be polite?

The judge also ruled that since Novak and Witek later tried (unsuccessfully) to sell their doc to other production companies, they obviously didn't think they had a deal with Thunder Road, so the breach of contract claim is out, too. It all seems pretty logical to me, but I'm sure the lawyers made it sound more complicated.
categories Cinematical