Disney, DreamWorks Sued by Writer Alleging ‘The Light Between Oceans’ Copyright Infringement

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Writer Joseph Nobile has sued Disney, DreamWorks, its successor companies, as well as author Margot Louise Watts and her publisher Simon & Schuster, claiming last year’s “The Light Between Oceans,” a romantic drama starring Michael Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, plagiarized from a screenplay he wrote. The suit was filed in the Southern District of New York.

According to Nobile’s complaint, he wrote a screenplay called “The Rootcutter,” which he subsequently retitled “A Tale of Two Humans,” and copyrighted it in 2004. He claims Watts, writing under the pseudonym M.L. Stedman, “knowingly and willfully copied, plagiarized, pirated and misappropriated expressive content” from his screenplay in her novel, “The Light Between Oceans,” which was published in 2012 by Simon & Schuster.

DreamWorks produced and Disney distributed a film based on Watts’ novel with the same title, which was released in theaters Sept. 2, 2016. The film went on to gross $13 million domestically and $24 million worldwide. Nobile claims the parties infringed his copyright, and is asking to be compensated for damages he sustained while working on the film, as well as given all profits from the book and film that are “attributable to the infringement of his copyrighted screenplay.”

In the complaint, Nobile listed more than 20 examples of extremely similar plot points and dialogue in “The Rootcutter” and “The Light Between Oceans.”

“Nobile has expended development money and considerable time and effort attempting to obtain financing for the production of a motion picture based on his Screenplay, including after the publication of the Novel, of which he was unaware,” the complaint said. “The widespread dissemination of the Novel and Film, containing striking similarities to the unique expressive content of Nobile’s Screenplay, will in all likelihood prevent Nobile from being able to raise financing or interest any production company in filming his Screenplay.”

Pamela Chelin contributed reporting to this story.

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