Disney could lose profits from some of their biggest blockbusters at an upcoming trial. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the studio could face a loss of profits on Deadpool, Guardians of the Galaxy, and 2017’s Beauty and the Beast live-action remake, for allegedly using stolen technology to market realistic CG characters. Earlier today, a California federal judge denied a summary judgment motion made by Disney with respect to these three films.
The following comes from THR, who have added additional information, so make sure you check out the original story for more:
The lawsuit, which has been ongoing for almost four years, comes from Rearden, a Silicon Valley company who have ownership over a visual effects technology called MOVA that captures the facial performance of an actor wearing makeup and processes the data into computer-generated imagery. The judge is allowing Rearden to move forward on their copyright claim based on alleged theft of their state-of-the-art vfx softaware.
The summary judgment motion pertained to damages available to Rearden in this case. Could Rearden establish a causal nexus between intellectual property infringement and Disney’s profits? Meaning is there a link between the use of special effects software and why consumers buy movie tickets. And does it matter for purposes of the law?
U.S. District Court Judge Jon Tigar points to how Rearden wishes to argue that Disney promoted MOVA as part of its advertising strategies for the movies, how the movie directors and actors pushed the cutting-edge technology when doing promotion, and how defendant posted YouTube videos about the making of the CG characters like the Beast in Beauty and the Beast. Additionally, the judge recognizes Rearden’s argument that the software was used to create more empathetic characters, which contributed to the film’s box office.
Disney challenged the causal nexus theory as a whole, arguing that there was no support in copyright law for an attainment of indirect profits via these means. In rejecting Disney’s challenge, Tiger points to what happened during Oracle v. Google, before that case got to the Supreme Court and helped define copyright issues with respect to computer code. The trial judge in that case considered Google’s attempt to preclude a damages expert from testifying about its copying of certain code in the Java API for the Android operating system. The judge ruled at the time that Oracle had proffered sufficient evidence of a causal nexus — a small piece of precedent that informs today’s decision.
The judge did deny their efforts to go after profits from Marvel Studios’ Avengers: Age of Ultron. A film first brought up in the lawsui back in 2017. Other films from other studios denied include Terminator: Genisys, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, and Fantastic Four. The latter two are also owned by Disney now.