June 2006 Volume 28 Number 1
Michael Chabon’s novel for young readers, was not copied from a movie
treatment written by Judith Shangold and Ronnie
Niederman. Federal District Judge William Pauley has made that finding, in the
bluntest terms possible.
and Niederman did in fact send Disney a series of treatments written for a
children’s animated theatrical feature titled “Starmond the Wizard”; and
Disney did in fact read and reject those treatments. Disney owns the company
that published Chabon’s novel. So Shangold and Niederman made the usual
allegations about how Disney must have passed their treatments to the publisher,
which must have passed them to Chabon, who must have copied them while writing
there were some similarities between Chabon’s novel and one of the treatments
that Shangold and Niederman claim to have submitted. Hence, their lawsuit.
at Disney, or at its law firm, did some sleuthing and made a remarkable
discovery. The one treatment that was similar to Chabon’s novel – a
treatment that Disney had no record of receiving or reviewing – referred to
Palm Pilots a half dozen times. Palm Pilots, however, were not introduced until
almost a year after Shangold and Niederman claimed they sent that treatment to
Disney. And the term “Palm Pilot” wasn’t even used internally by the
company that makes the devices, at the time Shangold and Niederman claimed they
submitted that treatment.
Pauley was not amused. He said that Shangold and Niederman “fabricated
evidence” and “perpetrated a fraud on the court.” For that reason, the
judge said, “they have forfeited their right to litigate this case.” And he
dismissed it, awarding attorneys’ fees to Disney.
v. Walt Disney Co.,