Jury makes a point (break), awards $250,000 to playwright

Last week (December 20, 2012), a jury awarded a playwright $250,000 in a case concerning her parody of the 1991 film “point break”

The film, starred Keanu Reeves, Patrick Swayze, and Gary Busey in a story about FBI Agent Johnny Utah's infiltration of a team of surfing bank robbers.

In 2003, playwright Jamie Keeling came up with the idea to adapt the film for the stage but to “cast” the Johnny Utah character from the audience each night, having the selected patron recite lines from cue cards. But, when the show's producer New Rock Theatre Productions stopped paying Keeling royalties, the playwright sued.

New Rock's main defense, it seems, stems from the argument that the play, based almost entirely on the movie script, wasn't original and therefore not entitled to copyright protection.

But, last week, a Federal Court jury in New York City disagreed, awarding Keeling a cool quarter of a million dollars in damages. The judge and jury, it seems, believed the show to be a copyrightable parody, mocking the entire original, together with Reeves' performance.

Now, Ms. Keeling is seeking an injunction to permanently enjoin New Rock from infringing her work in the future.

2 Responses to Jury makes a point (break), awards $250,000 to playwright

  1. More and more power is going to copyright holders. It’s disturbing, since mostly corporations with a lot of money go after the little guy.
    This case stinks, parody is protected.

    • Jay,
      You missed the point. The Judge and Jury agreed with you. The issue here was a producer who didn’t want to pay the writer of the play BECAUSE it’s a parody. The Court found that Parody IS protected, that the play in question IS a parody, and that the playwright is therefore entitled to be paid for its use.

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