Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Wednesday, July 5, 2017


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Ninth Circuit: One Movie on Shakespeare Doesn’t Violate Copyright on Another


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The Ninth U.S. Court of Appeals yesterday affirmed the dismissal of an action for an alleged copyright violation brought by the producer/director of one movie on William Shakespeare against the co-producer/director of another such film.

In a memorandum opinion, a three-judge panel found that U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. properly jettisoned the action by Kenneth Heusey, who claimed his film “Not Without Justice” was plagiarized by Roland Emmerich’s “Anonymous.”

Heusey’s screenplay poses the question, according to publicity, “Did William Shakespeare murder Christopher Marlowe?”

Marlowe, a contemporary of Shakespeare and also a playwright, was stabbed to death on May 30, 1593.

There is a theory that he was the actual author of works attributed to Shakespeare—a theory undercut by the fact that several works of Shakespeare, including Hamlet, post-date Marlowe’s death. Shakespeare died in 1616.

Emmerich’s movie asks the question, “Was Shakespeare a fraud?”

It depicts Edward de Vere, earl of Oxford, as the true author of Shakespeare’s plays. De Vere’s death came in 1604.

The two movies, the Ninth Circuit declared, “are not substantially similar under the extrinsic test, and any similarities in the general concepts are unprotected.”

The opinion went on to say:

“We reject as meritless Heusey’s contention that the promotional trailers for defendants’ film, as freestanding works separate from the film itself, are independently substantially similar to Heusey’s screenplay.”

The panel said there was no point to affording Heusey leave to amend.

The case is Heusey v. Emmerich, No. 15-55975.


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