Having won an Oscar for the Best Animated Feature this year, no one can believe the fact that Disney’s Zootopia has been slapped with copyright infringement by veteran Hollywood screenwriter and producer Gary L. Goldman. He claims that he had pitched The Walt Disney’s Company on a cartoon movie which has strikingly similar to the 2016 released movie Zootopia.
Gary L. Goldman claims that Disney copied his character designs, dialogues, themes and even the title of the movie from a project that he initially developed in 2000 and pitched it twice to Disney Executives way before Disney announced its movie project in 2010.
Goldman claimed that Zootopia would be a franchise with “Looney” being the first instalment and Zootopia being a part of it. The concept included a human animator who creates a cartoon animal world meant to reflect a complex human society “the society included class and power structures based on the characteristics of different species.”
Esplanade Pictures is also listed as one of the plaintiffs as Goldman was employed with the company when the idea of Zootopia was pitched to Disney. The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial and unspecified damages. Zootopia was the fourth-highest grossing movie worldwide in 2016 and earned more than $1 billion globally at the box office. The damages sought by the plaintiffs have not yet been as the amount would be huge considering that Disney has two revenue streams i.e. merchandises and movies.
However, Disney refuted all claims and said that these are false allegations and an unprincipled attempt to lay claims on a film they did not create.
It is essential to understand that copyright law does not protect ideas themselves. In fact, courts have declared: “Ideas are as free as the air.” Once your idea is “fixed in a tangible means of expression,” such as a script written out, you own the copyright, and the expression of that idea is protected.