Win for Warner Brothers in “Last Samurai” Lawsuit

5 Mar

A U.S. District Court judge recently granted summary judgment in favor of Warner Brothers and screenwriter John Logan, stating they had not violated the rights of Aaron and Matthew Benay, brothers who filed suit in late 2005 alleging a screenplay they wrote was copied without their permission.  The brothers alleged the studio and other defendants stole from them the story behind the 2003 film “The Last Samurai.”  The Benay brothers wrote a script in the 1990s called “Last Samurai” and their literary agent “pitched” it to the president of productions at Bedford Falls.  The production company passed on the script, then in 2003 the company produced the box office hit “The Last Samurai.”

The U.S. District Court judge found no implied contract existed between Warner Brothers, Logan and the Benay brothers.  Additionally the judge found there was not enough evidence presented to show the studio had shared knowledge of the screenplay that was allegedly copied without permission.

“The plaintiffs had argued that the studio was made aware of the script in 2003 upon objection by an attorney for the brothers. The plaintiffs also believed that privity—a term denoting whether someone has a sufficient relationship to justify a lawsuit—could be established because an employee of Silver Productions, a company located on the Warner Bros. lot, had seen and passed around the script.

Neither of these allegations were made in the plaintiffs’ amended complaint, however, and the judge doesn’t find convincing evidence the script was actually delivered. As such, the studio has been released from any liability for breaching an implied contract that if the plaintiffs’ ideas were used, compensation would be rendered.”

Even though Warner Brothers and Logan were dismissed as defendants, the case goes on in part as the judge denied a motion for summary judgment filed on behalf of “The Last Samurai” filmmakers Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, and their production company Bedford Falls.  The case against the filmmakers and their production company will proceed to trial where a jury will determine whether an implied contract existed between the Benay brothers and the other defendants.

To view the article from The Hollywood Reporter follow this link.  An additional article from Reuters can be found at this link.

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