Shape of Water copyright lawsuit dismissed: Guillermo del Toro is ‘the true creator’

Oscar-winning film has been met with multiple claims of plagiarism

Annabel Nugent
Tuesday 06 April 2021 13:11
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The Shape Of Water - Trailer

A copyright lawsuit alleging Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water ripped off a Pulitzer Prize-winning author has been dismissed.

The lawsuit – which was originally filed in February 2018 ahead of the Oscar voting deadline – claimed that the film infringed on the work of author Paul Zindel.

As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, the allegation, which was made by Zindel’s family, prompted a legal battle in which judges examined del Toro’s 2017 film and Zindel’s 1969 play Let Me Hear You Whisper for similarities.

Both explore the relationship between a woman and a creature trapped inside a science facility.

Responding to news of the suit’s dismissal, a spokesperson for Searchlight Pictures told THR: “David Zindel, the son of Paul Zindel, author of Let Me Hear You Whisper, acknowledges, based on confidential information obtained during the litigation process, that his claims of plagiarism are unfounded.”

They added that David “acknowledges Guillermo del Toro as the true creator of The Shape of Water” and that “any similarity between the two works is coincidental”. 

As reported by THR, the lawsuit was originally rejected by US District Court Judge Percy Anderson who ruled that the premise shared by the two stories is “too general to be protected”. 

It was later revived in June 2020 after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided that “additional evidence, including expert testimony” would be useful in offering an objective literary analysis of the two works. A trial was set for July, however, the case has now been dropped.

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It was not the only accusation of plagiarism to be made against the award-winning film.

In February 2018, French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet accused del Toro of plagiarising the dance scene from his 1991 film Delicatessen. 

Similarly, the film was accused of copying Marc S Nollkaemper’s 13-minute short The Space Between Us, which also told the story of a woman who falls in love with a fish creature while working at a research facility. 

The Shape of Water was nominated for 13 Oscars at the 2018 ceremony, taking home four awards including Best Picture and Best Director.

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