18 October 2019CopyrightRory O'Neill

‘Inside Out’ copyright suit proceeds against Disney and Pixar

A Canadian court has cleared the way for a Toronto former film student to sue  Pixar and  Walt Disney for copyright infringement over the 2015 animated film “Inside Out”.

Claims against other defendants, including several Walt Disney subsidiaries and the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) television network, were thrown out due to lack of jurisdiction.

Damon Pourshian sued the movie studios, alongside other Walt Disney companies including Disney Shopping, Disney Entertainment, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, and ABC in 2015 at the Ontario Superior Court.

Pourshian claimed that the 2015 film “Inside Out”, infringed the copyright for a screenplay he wrote as a film student at Sheridan College in Oakville, Toronto.

According to Pourshian, he originally came up with the idea for a “film in which five of the protagonist’s organs, Heart, Stomach, Colon, Bladder and Brain, become personified characters that guide his behaviour”.

As a student at Sheridan, he developed the idea into a screenplay, also called “Inside Out”, and a short film which he said was widely screened at the college.

In its  judgment, issued Monday, October 15, the Ontario Superior Court dismissed the claims against all defendants except Pixar and Walt Disney pictures, who produced the film for release in Ontario, as well as Disney Shopping.

If found liable, “this conduct on the part of the defendants Pixar and Walt Disney Pictures would constitute secondary infringement of Pourshian’s copyright in his ‘Inside Out’ [work] in Ontario,” the judgment said.

The defendants accepted that the Ontario court had jurisdiction over the claims against Disney Shopping, which sold merchandise related to the film in the Canadian province.

The activities of the remaining defendants and Walt Disney subsidiaries in connection with the film would not constitute infringement in Ontario, the court found.

The judgment said: “There are no allegations in the statement of claim that could enable the court to conclude that any of them other than Pixar Animation Studios, Walt Disney Pictures Inc and Disney Shopping Inc infringed Pourshian’s copyright under the  Copyright Act in Ontario or elsewhere in Canada”.

Pourshian  previously filed a suit against the same defendants at the US District Court for the Northern District of California in June 2018.

The Canadian filmmaker is also not the only one who has raised a copyright challenge against the makers of the film.

Denise Daniels, a child development expert, unsuccessfully sued Disney and Pixar in 2017.

As  previously reported by WIPR, Daniels claimed that she had held discussions with Disney executives between 2005 and 2009 about creating a film focused on “emotional intelligence in children”.

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More on this story

22 June 2018   A film director has filed a copyright lawsuit against entertainment companies Disney and Pixar after he noticed “striking similarities” between a short film he created at college and their 2015 animation film “Inside Out”.
1 February 2018   Copyright infringement claims brought against Disney and Pixar in relation to animated film “Inside Out” have been dismissed with leave to amend.
10 December 2019   Disney has sued a US-based online retailer for selling merchandise which allegedly infringes several of the Mickey Mouse creator’s trademarks and copyrights.