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Zambito v. Paramount Pictures Corp., 613 F. Supp. 1107, 1112 (E.D.N.Y.), aff'd, 788 F.2d (2nd Cir. 1985)

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No Scenes a Faire

Mr. Zambito, an archeologist-screenwriter, wrote a screenplay entitled "Black Rainbow". Mr. Zambito sued Paramount Pictures for copyright infringement, claiming that many of the scenes in his screenplay were identical to those in the iconic film "Indiana Jones and the Raider of the Lost Ark".

Indiana Jones
Scenes a Faire - the snake staredown

"Black Rainbow" is an a swashbuckling adventure involving an archeologist is search of treasure in Peru, at least according to Mr. Zambito. The court, however, found Mr. Zambito's screenplay to be "a somber, vulgar script replete with overt sexual scenes, cocaine smuggling and cold-blooded killing." As opposed to Raiders, which is "a tongue-in-cheek, action-packed, Jack Armstrong, all-American adventure story."

Needless to say, he lost.

Why? Because American copyright law does not protect Scenes a Faire. Scenes a Faire basically consist of the details, characters, events or elements of a fictional story that are inherent to the conventional telling of that kind of tale. The similarities between Black Rainbow and Raiders were similarities one would expect to find of any two movies of that genre.

Snakes and Caves

"[T]reasure might be hidden in a cave inhabited by snakes, that fire might be used to repel the snakes that birds might frighten an intruder in the jungle, and that a wary traveler might seek solace in a tavern, all are indispensable elements to the treatment of the "Raiders" theme, and are, as a matter of law, simply too general to be protectable."