21 October 2021CopyrightAlex Baldwin

Filmmakers sue Spike Lee, Nate Parker for copyright infringement

Two independent filmmakers have sued directors Spike Lee and Nate Parker, claiming that they “stole” the idea for the 2019 film “American Skin”.

“American Skin” was directed by Parker, with Lee attached as a producer, with the film being billed as a “Spike Lee Presentation” when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2019.

Filmmakers and brothers Selton and Langston Shaw claim that Lee, Parker, and three affiliate companies based “American Skin” on a screenplay they had written in 2017, according to a complaint filed with the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Shaw brother’s screenplay, titled “Routine Stop” focuses on police violence against black men and women, and the county’s systematic indifference to it, according to a press release.

In 2017, the brothers submitted the script to the TV One Screenplay competition, organised and supported by the American Black Film Festival. While the screenplay did not win, it was circulated among industry professionals, according to a press release announcing the suit.

When “American Skin” debuted in 2019, the Shaw brothers noted similarities with their screenplay in plot lines, characters, and themes.

Both the screenplay and the film take the perspective of a character seeking revenge after a jury fails to indict a white police officer for shooting and killing his brother during a routine traffic stop.

Joshua Schiller, lead lawyer for the Shaws and a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner, said: “Too many key elements in Mr Parker’s film are uncannily similar to my clients’ screenplay. As the complaint shows, this is not a coincidence but an unlawful and deliberate attempt to usurp the Shaw brothers’ time, money, and efforts to shine a spotlight on injustice.

“This is a clear violation of copyright law, and we intend to enforce our clients’ rights vigorously.”

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