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Copycat claims against film smash hit ‘Shape of Water’

Written by Ellis Sweetenham on 22 February 2018

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In a world where not everything is original, the recent film hit ‘Shape of Water’ seem a welcome breath of original air, so it seemed.

‘The Shape of Water’ has been a hit since to came onto the big screen with Golden Globe successes and 13 Oscar nominations under its belt.

The film centres on Elisa Esposito who is a mute cleaner working in a laboratory. During her work, she falls in love with an amphibious man.

Director Guillermo del Toro and the Fox Searchlight studio thought they were shooting to the top, however they have come down with quite a bump and have been hit with a copyright infringement claim.

The family of late Pulitzer-winning playwright Paul Zindel have filed a copyright suit against the Director, Studio and other key figures, claiming that ‘The Shape of Water’ is ‘in many ways identical’ to Zindel’s play ‘Let Me Hear You Whisper’.

The play is about an old cleaning lady who has a job in a laboratory. During her time there, she develops a rapport with a dolphin who is having experiments carried out on it and aids its attempts to speak.

Defending the claim, Del Toro claims to have never heard of the play and speaks of his callobaroters in that they were also not aware of the play.

Fox Searchlight also released a statement, highlighting that they will defend the claim ‘vigorously’.

The claim details at least 61 similarities between the film and the play on which the copyright claim is based.

The claim also outlines how the estate believes the play was copied. An interview with the director Del Toro in 2011 is noted in which he said the basis of the film came from author Daniel Kraus. Kraus is said to have come up with the idea when he was a teenager, which the claim estimates to be around 1990. 1990 is the year in which Zindel’s play, adapted for television, was aired.

Daniel Kraus has also been added as a defendant to the matter.

This does not seem to be a normal clear cut case of copyright infringement and the outcome may put a stopper in the current rush of success for The Shape of Water.

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