ANASTASIA Lawsuit Continues as Judge Questions Copyright Infringement
As BroadwayWorld reported last year, the heir of French playwright Marcelle Maurette sued playwright Terrence McNally and the producers of the Broadway hit Anastasia for plagiarizing material from the 1952 play. Jean-Etienne de Becdelievre claimed that 20th Century Fox licensed the play for its 1956 and 1997 films, but not for stage productions.
Now according to the Hollywood Reporter, U.S. District Judge Alvin Hellerstein has denied McNally's motion for summary judgment, claiming that the playwright "was aware of the licensing history." He writes:
"Even in the realm of historical work, and especially in cases involving historical fiction, the right to build on a prior author's work is not absolute. Put differently, to the extent that plaintiffs seek to assert copyright protection over the historical underpinnings of the Play, their claim must fail. But the fictionalized elements that are built on top of the historical skeleton are subject to copyright protection, and these fictionalized elements form the basis of plaintiffs' claim."
Click here to read his full judgement.
Following the original filing, the show's team commented:
"Plaintiff's case is wholly without merit. While the works may start with the basic idea of the historical story of the real-life Anastasia Romanov, copyright law does not protect ideas or historical facts. Moreover, the works involved are not similar: the Broadway production has a different plot, different characters, and different settings, not to mention the numerous songs that appear in the Broadway musical that do not appear in Plaintiff's straight play. We are particularly disappointed about the filing as the production went out of its way to explain these myriad differences to Mr. Becdelievre to resolve the issue. We look forward to responding to the claims in court."
The new musical, Anastasia, opened on Broadway on April 24, 2017 at the Broadhurst Theatre (235 West 44th Street), produced by Stage Entertainment, Bill Taylor (Sister Act, Rocky), Tom Kirdahy (It's Only A Play, The Visit) and Hunter Arnold (Once On This Island, Kinky Boots). the company is also led by Christy Altomare, John Bolton, Max von Essenand Mary Beth Peil.ANASTASIA features a book by celebrated playwright Terrence McNally, a lush, new score by Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics), and direction by Tony Award-winning director Darko Tresnjak.
From the Tony Award-winning creators of the Broadway classic RAGTIME, and inspired by the beloved films, Anastasia is the new Broadway musical that's "one of the most gorgeous shows in years!" (New York Observer). This dazzling show transports us from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s, as a brave young woman sets out to discover the mystery of her past. Pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her, Anya enlists the aid of a dashing conman and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Together, they embark on an epic adventure to help her find home, love, and family.
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy