December 12, 2016 at 7:19 pm #1201968036
According to an article in the New York Post, the Broadway-bound musical Anastasia is being sued on grounds of plagiarism by the heir of playwright Marcelle Maurette, who wrote a play in 1952 called Anastasia also about Anastasia Romanoff. http://nypost.com/2016/12/10/anastasia-producers-sued-for-plagiarism/December 13, 2016 at 6:02 am #1201968324
He’d have had better luck suing the film producers. At least it made money.December 20, 2016 at 5:57 am #1201972632
a bit of theatrical irony, Hartford Stage appears to be embroiled in
yet another copyright infringement claim, this time involving their own
production of the new musical, Anastasia, as it moves forward to a
Broadway opening a mere ten months after its premiere at Hartford Stage
under the direction of Hartford Stage Artistic Director, Darko Tresnjak.
In earlier interviews, Mr. Tresnjak stated that he had spent over two
years developing the property with the writing team, and that they had
the rights to both the animated feature and the original Fox movie with
Helen Hayes and Ingrid Bergman. It appears the rights to the original
source material, Marrcelle Maurette’s play, however, are in question.
Their production is being sued by an heir of playwright Marcelle
Maurette, who claims that the producers did not secure the licensing
permission to create a new medium based on the play. Since the new
musical is credited as being “inspired by” the two 20th-Century Fox
films which were themselves licensed adaptations of the 1952 play,
Maurette’s heirs are seeking an injunction to bar the show from opening
until a licensing agreement can be reached. Stage Entertainment, which
produces along with Tom Kirdahy and Bill Taylor, stated that there was
no merit to the lawsuit and that the musical is based on the story of
Anastasia Romanov’s life.
As regards the characters depicted
being historical persons, and thus beyond copyright protection, they
appear to the contrary to be works of fiction and the author’s creation.
DNA testing by multiple international laboratories such as the Armed
Forces DNA Identification Laboratory and Innsbruck Medical University
proved conclusively that all family members, including Anastasia, died
in 1918. The parents and all five children are now accounted for, and
each has his or her own unique DNA profile. The majority of the musical
follows Anastasia into her mid-twenties. The real Anastasia died at
Moving quickly to control the narrative, the show’s
producers issued a statement in response to the lawsuit regarding their
production and the original play: “…the works involved are not similar
…the production went out of its way to explain these myriad
differences to Mr. Becdelievre [Maurette’s heir] to resolve the issue.
We look forward to responding to the claims in court.” The current
musical’s producers state their production was “inspired by” the
Twentieth Fox motion pictures, as opposed to “based on” or “adapted
from”, terms that the motion pictures used regarding their relation to
the original play. Both movies appear to have secured legal licensing of
the origin material.
Under Copyright law, a derivative work is a
new, original product that includes aspects of a preexisting, already
copyrighted work. Only copyright owners have the exclusive right to
produce derivative works based on their original, copyrighted works.
A brief timeline:
In 1952, Marcelle Maurette wrote a play called Anastasia,[which toured
Europe and America. The play was so successful that in 1956 the English
translation/adaptation by Guy Bolton was made into a film, Anastasia.
The plot revolves around a group of swindlers who attempt to raise money
among Russian émigrés by pretending that Grand Duchess Anastasia is
still alive. A suitable amnesiac, “Anna”, is groomed by the swindlers to
impersonate Anastasia. Anna’s origins are unknown and as the play
progresses hints are dropped that she could be the real Anastasia, who
has lost her memory. The viewer is left to decide whether Anna really is
In 1965, Anya, a credited musical adaptation of the Bolton/Maurette work opened on Broadway.
In the 1997 animated musical fantasy Anastasia, the central character
“Anya” is portrayed as the actual Grand Duchess Anastasia, even though
the film was released after DNA tests proved that the real Anastasia had
died with her family in 1918. The animated film was acknowledged and
credited as “based on he play by Marcelle Maurette, as adapted by Guy
Bolton; and the 1956 screenplay by Arthur Laurents” .
imagine that this production, with its eye set no doubt on a repeat of
Hartford Stage’s Tony winning A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder,
will seek to resolve this as quickly as possible.December 20, 2016 at 6:08 am #1201972634
Both movies had obtained legal contracts for screen rights only regarding the original play. Since, the producers are reasonably sure of at least a Tony nomination, why shouldn’t the original author’s heir and holder of the origin material’s rights enjoy some of that possible future success. The musical version is apparently derivative and therefore in breech of copyright laws. The character as depicted in all three works is a fiction and does not follow the true story of Anastasisa, so using another author’s fictional character and their plot points is a legal violation.January 27, 2017 at 1:38 pm #1201996765
Update: A judge has denied the a motion for this lawsuit to be dismissed. However, Anastasia is still scheduled to begin previews on March 23. http://www.playbill.com/article/judge-denies-motion-to-dismiss-anastasia-plagiarism-suitApril 3, 2018 at 5:28 pm #1202523732
Looks like the lawsuit is officially going to court. http://www.playbill.com/article/anastasia-copyright-lawsuit-heads-toward-trial
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