Plaintiff's (Ms. Chase-Riboud) complaint in Chase-Riboud v. Dreamworks, Inc.
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O'DONNELL & SHAEFFER, LLP
PIERCE O'DONNELL (State Bar No. 081298)
JOHN SHAEFFER (State Bar No. 139331)
LEE R. SELTMAN (State Bar No. 168857)
633 West Fifth Street, Suite 1700
Los Angeles, California 90071
Attorneys for Plaintiff
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
BARBARA CHASE-RIBOUD, an Individual,
DREAMWORKS, Inc. (dba DREAMWORKS SKG) a Delaware Corporation; DREAMWORKS FILMS LLC, a California limited liability company; DREAMWORKS DISTRIBUTION LLC, a California limited liability company; DREAMWORKS LLC, a California limited liability company; and DOES 1 through 50, inclusive,
COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT (17 U.S.C. Sections 101, et seq.);
UNFAIR COMPETITION (15 U.S.C. Sections 1117, 1125(a));
BREACH OF IMPLIED CONTRACT;
DECLARATORY RELIEF; AND
JURY TRIAL DEMANDED
Plaintiff Barbara Chase-Riboud, by her undersigned attorneys, complains against DreamWorks, Inc., DreamWorks Films LLC, DreamWorks Distribution LLC, and DreamWorks LLC (collectively "DreamWorks") as follows:
JURISDICTION AND VENUE
This is an action forcomplaint alleges copyright infringement arising under the Copyright Act ofs of 1909 and 1976, 17 U.S.C. Sections 101 et seq., and a claim for unfair competition arising under the Lanham Act of 1946 (as amended), 15 U.S.C. Section 1125(a). This Court has subject matter jurisdiction over these federal question claims both the Lanham Act of 1946, 15 U.S.C. Section 1125(a) and California law, breach of implied contract, declaratory relief and injunctivepursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sections 1331 and 1338(a) & (b). This complaint also alleges violations of California law and includes a claim for declaratory relief. This Court has jurisdiction over these state law claims pursuant to its supplemental jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. Section 1367(a), and has further jurisdiction over the declaratory this action pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Sections 1331, 1338(a) and 1338(b), and its supplemental jurisdictionrelief claim pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. Section 2201.
Venue is proper in this district under 28 U.S.C. Sections 1391 and 1400(a) because the copyright infringement, unfair competition and other wrongful acts that give rise to these claims occurred in this district, and because DreamWorks is located here.
This case is about the original sin of American history slavery. The effects of this genocidal crime our Black Holocaust continue to haunt the United States of America. From 1619 through 1862, 24 million Africans were kidnapped, transported across the ocean and enslaved as chattel by Americans on American soil. Eleven million more perished in the Middle Passage the deadly voyage between the African coast and the Americas.
This barbaric period of history, however, was not without its heroes. Some like Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, and John Quincy Adams are well-known; their stories figure prominently in our history books and in our collective consciousness. Yet countless others, who risked and gave their lives fighting for emancipation, remain nameless.
One such forgotten hero was Joseph Cinque who was kidnapped in his native Mendeland (now Sierra Leone) in 1839 and transported to Cuba with 670 other Africans. Forced aboard the Spanish slaving ship, ironically named "L'Amistad" (Spanish for friendship) after he arrived in the Spanish colony, Cinque led his 53 fellow Africans in an heroic uprising against their cruel captors off the shore of Spanish Cuba. After taking control of the ship by killing the captain and most of the crew, Cinque and the others zigzagged up the East Coast of the United States for nearly two months before being captured and imprisoned in New Haven, Connecticut. Formally charged with murder and piracy by the United States government, yet hailed by abolitionists as a revolutionary and defender of his liberty, Cinque electrified a bitter feud in a nation and a world sharply divided along lines of slavery and freedom. The ensuing lengthy court battle a harbinger of the looming Civil War sparked an intense domestic debate as to whether Africans were people or property. The incident also caused an international crisis when Britain demanded that the United States honor its treaty obligations barring the continued trafficking of slaves, while Spain demanded the return of the Africans to their Spanish captors. Aided by former President and then Congressman John Quincy Adams, Cinque ultimately won freedom for himself and his fellow Africans before the United States Supreme Court, thereby becoming the nation's first victorious civil rights plaintiff.
Despite his heroism, Joseph Cinque's story was lost for 150 years. This tragic historical oversight was remedied in 1989 with the publication of Barbara Chase-Riboud's pioneering, critically-acclaimed book, Echo of Lions. A renowned author, poet and sculptor, Chase-Riboud saw Cinque's story as the archetype for the history of Black slavery just as Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist is for child labor in Victorian England, John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath is for migrant farm workers in the 1920s, and Steven Spielberg's movie Schindler's List is becoming for the Jewish Holocaust.
With virtually no published works to rely upon, Chase-Riboud spent three years meticulously researching Cinque's story. Armed with the fruits of her own personal investigation and the creativity and imagination of an experienced writer, Chase-Riboud breathed new life into Cinque and the Amistad saga, weaving fictional characters and scenes into an absorbing historical framework. It is her masterful blend of fact and fiction told from Cinque's perspective that makes Echo of Lions a compelling epic, a work of such breathtaking originality that any Hollywood screenwriter would be proud to call his own. Without Echo of Lions and Chase-Riboud the Amistad rebellion, Cinque's dramatic odyssey through the American legal system, and John Quincy Adams' courageous advocacy would have been forever lost to the popular imagination. But it was not. Millions have read Echo of Lions. Translated into five major languages, the book was republished by the United States State Department throughout Francophone Africa, including Senegal, Cote d' Ivorie, Zaire, Mali, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. For her significant contribution, Chase-Riboud received citations from Connecticut's Governor and General Assembly, and an honorary degree from the University of Connecticut.
One of the people who read Echo of Lions was the author's close friend, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Excited by her preview of the manuscript, Mrs. Onassis, then an editor at Doubleday, sent it to Steven Spielberg in 1988. Spielberg's production company at that time Amblin Entertainment, Inc. ("Amblin") was enthusiastic about the book, but ultimately passed on the project, claiming the story was too big for a feature film and better suited for a mini-series. Or so they said.
Eight years later, in November 1996, Spielberg announced to great fanfare that his first movie for DreamWorks, his new yet already powerful studiohis new studio, Defendant DreamWorks, would be the story of Cinque and the slave revolt on "L'Amistad."
Surprised by this announcement, Chase-Riboud immediately contacted DreamWorks. The studio, however, stonewalled, fumbling through a number of ever more absurd rationalizations of the basis for its Amistad script. In the meantime, Spielberg arrogantly commenced and completed filming the movie.
Even the most cursory review of the Amistad shooting script and Echo of Lions reveals a shocking similarities in themes, dialogue, setting, pacing and characters. Although Chase-Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that some of the more minor similarities were expunged during the editing number of striking process, most have not and cannot be eliminated from the moviesimilarities. While Chase-Riboud makes no claim to the elements of Amistad that are historical fact, she takes great issue with those elements of the movie that are the expression of her personal creative genius, including the scenes, characters, and plot devices that are not part of the historical record. These original inventions, which make Echo of Lions a compelling and important piece of literature, have been stolen by DreamWorks in the hopes of infusing its film with the epic power of Chase-Riboud's book. Indeed, but for Echo of Lions, there would be no Amistad movie.
Chase-Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that Spielberg and DreamWorks expect Amistad will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the movie Schindler's List, thereby becoming the definitive cinematic treatment of America's Black holocaust. Chase-Riboud is further informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that neither Spielberg nor DreamWorks wants or intends to share credit with Chase-Riboud for the underlying creativity that gives this particular telling of the Amistad story its power.
Amistad is scheduled to be released on December 12, 1997, but the injustice to Chase-Riboud remains unremedied. Ironically, the woman who resurrected Cinque and the Amistad rebellion from the dustheap of history is, like the protagonist in her novel, a forgotten hero. DreamWorks has misappropriated her labor, her artistic craft and her passion, and passioarrogantly thrust her inspired work before the public as its own. Chase-Riboud has been cheated out of her rightful place in the story she brought to life and deprived of the recognition and just compensation she deserves for her crucial contribution to Amistad. Like Cinque, this prominent Black writer now faces a struggle sheagainst persons who have stripped her of her rights, leaving her with no recourse but to seek justice from this Court. What a paradox that the renowned filmmaker who produced and directed The Color Purple would be a party to denying a prominent Black American woman of letters and the arts her rightful recognition for raising public consciousness about slavery.
Plaintiff Barbara Chase-Riboud, the author of Echo of Lions, is a critically acclaimed and best-selling novelist, poet, and sculptor. Her first book, Sally Hemings, won the 1979 Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize as the best novel written by an American woman. In 1988, Chase-Riboud was awarded the prestigious Carl Sandburg Prize as "best American poet" for her second collection of poems, Portrait of a Nude Woman as Cleopatra. A graduate of Yale University's Design and Architectural School who holds honorary degrees from Temple University, Mulenberg University, and the University of Connecticut, Chase-Riboud is a United States citizen who currently lives in Paris, France, where she recently received a knighthood from the French government for her contribution to arts and letters.
Chase-Riboud's artistic talents were evident at an early age she sold a set of her prints to the Museum of Modern Art while still in high school. Her sculpture has been exhibited worldwide and is part of the permanent collection of prestigious museums such as the Museum of Modern Art and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Currently, Chase-Riboud is working on a sculpture won through a competition and commissioned for the African Burial Ground in Foley Square in Manhattan.
Chase-Riboud's trademark as an author is novelizing forgotten or excised history. In Sally Hemings, she told the story of the excised relationship between Thomas Jefferson and his slave Hemings. The protagonist of Chase-Riboud's second historical novel, Valide, is an unknown, unnamed victim of the white slave trade who, as a harem concubine, became the mother of the Turkish sultan Mohammed II, Emperor of the Ottoman Empire early in the nineteenth century. After publishing Echo of Lions, which brought to life the excised story of the first civil rights trial in America and the only favorable Supreme Court ruling on civil rights until Brown v. Board of Education, Chase-Riboud researched and authored The President's Daughter. This historical novel tells the tragedy of the institutionalized "crime" of miscegenation and the hidden pillar of "passing for white" in American society.
Chase-Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that Defendant DreamWorks, Inc., which does business as DreamWorks SKG, is a Delaware corporation, whose principal place of business is 100 Universal City Plaza, Bungalow 477, Universal City, California. Chase-Riboud is further informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that, among other things, DreamWorks, Inc. is engaged in the production and worldwide distribution of theatrical motion pictures.
Chase Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that DreamWorks Films LLC, which does business as DreamWorks Pictures, is a California limited liability company whose principal place of business is 100 Universal City Plaza, Building 10, Universal City, California. Chase-Riboud is further informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that DreamWorks Films LLC is engaged in the production of theatrical motion pictures, and is a company wholly controlled and dominated by DreamWorks, Inc.
Chase Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that DreamWorks Distribution LLC is a California limited liability company whose principal place of business is 100 Universal City Plaza, Building 10, Universal City, California. Chase-Riboud is further informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that DreamWorks Distribution LLC is engaged in the distribution of theatrical motion pictures, and is a company wholly controlled and dominated by DreamWorks, Inc.
Chase Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that DreamWorks LLC is a California limited liability company whose principal place of business is 100 Universal City Plaza, Building 10, Universal City, California. Chase-Riboud is further informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that DreamWorks LLC is the holder of any copyrights and/or trademarks in the DreamWorks theatrical motion picture Amistad, is a company created to hold, among other things, such intellectual property rights, and is a company wholly controlled and dominated by DreamWorks, Inc.
Chase-Riboud does not know the true names and capacities of those defendants sued herein as DOES 1 through 50, inclusive, and therefore sues these defendants by such fictitious names. Chase-Riboud will amend this complaint to allege their true names and capacities when such are ascertained. Chase-Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that each of the defendants sued herein as DOES 1 through 50, inclusive, is in some manner legally responsible for the wrongful acts set forth herein.
Chase-Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that each of the defendants was empowered to act as the agent, servant and/or employee of each of the other defendants, and that all of the acts alleged herein to have been done by each defendant were authorized, approved and/or ratified by each of the other defendants.
Chase Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that at all times pertinent to this complaint, DreamWorks, Inc. has controlled, succeeded to, and/or has been the alter ego of DreamWorks Pictures LLC, DreamWorks Distribution LLC and DreamWorks LLC (collectively the "Companies") with respect to, without limitation, the matters at issue in this action, including, without limitation, making decisions with respect to the production of the theatrical motion picture Amistad, the decision to misappropriate Chase-Riboud's intellectual property and incorporate such property in the picture, and the decision not to credit or compensate Chase-Riboud for such intellectual property. Chase-Riboud is further informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that DreamWorks, Inc. has been directly and actively involved in the Companies' conduct in the matter at issue, and has directed and controlled the Companies' actions. Chase-Riboud is further informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that DreamWorks, Inc. has paid the debts and obligations of the Companies, and has dominated and controlled the Companies' organization and activities. Chase-Riboud is further informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that at times pertinent, there has existed such a unity of interest and ownership between and among DreamWorks, Inc. and the Companies that any individuality and separateness between and among DreamWorks, Inc. and the Companies has ceased and each of these defendants is the alter ego of the others. Adherence to the fiction of the separate existence of DreamWorks, Inc. and the Companies would permit an abuse of any privilege afforded truly separate entities and would sanction fraud and promote injustice in that Chase-Riboud is further informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that DreamWorks, Inc. may seek to immunize itself from liability for the acts of the Companies which are, or may be, unable to respond, in whole or in part, to the damages sustained by Chase-Riboud.
FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS COMMON TO ALL CAUSES OF ACTION
Chase-Riboud's Research and Writing of Echo of Lions
Having decided to tell Cinque's story, Chase-Riboud spent years researching both primary and secondary sources before putting pen to paper for Echo of Lions, her third historical novel. The breadth of her research was unprecedented. Piecing together an intricate puzzle, she looked at all of the documents connected with the Amistad case. Among other sources, she examined each of the relevant court transcripts, the published, but long forgotten, argument before the Supreme Court, newspaper articles about the rebellion, and even the papers, letters, diaries, and memoirs of John Quincy Adams, his wife and many of the book's other historical figures. To better understand the Africans' experience, she relied on, among other things, eighteenth- and nineteenth-century "confessions" of slave traders and slave narratives. She even studied books about Mende culture (the local culture in Cinque's home region of Africa), including a dictionary of Mende language, thought, and grammar. Through her research, Chase-Riboud became intimately familiar with everything written about Cinque and the Amistad, and gained valuable insight into nineteenth-century politics and culture.
After her years of effort, Chase-Riboud realized that, as with any old puzzle, many pieces to the Amistad tale were missing. To fill in the gaps, she wove fictional characters and scenes into the historical framework, thereby creating a vibrant tapestry of historical fiction. Two of Chase-Riboud's literary inventions bear special note:
Chase-Riboud created the fictional character Henry Braithwaite, a prosperous, erudite, middle-aged Black printer living in New Haven. Born free, but forced to face danger and discrimination at every turn, Braithwaite, who appears throughout Echo of Lions, is a literary device intended to emphasize the ambiguities confronting free Black Americans in antebellum New England.
Another of Chase-Riboud's inventions is the relationship between John Quincy Adams and Cinque. Although Adams did, in fact, defend Cinque before the Supreme Court, there is no evidence whatsoever that the two men ever met face-to-face or discussed the case. In Echo of Lions, however, Chase-Riboud bonded Adams and Cinque with a personal relationship in which each man respects, and is influenced by, the other. This literary device unites Cinque's quest for freedom with Adams' abolitionist agenda. The rapport between the two men places them on equal levels, elevating the story from one about an advocate representing a slave to the meeting of two extraordinary men who stand as symbols of America and Africa.
The Braithwaite character and the Adams/Cinque relationship both skillful amalgams of fact and imagination are the art of historical fiction. It is therefore little wonder why these literary devices and many others like them were later misappropriated in the shooting script for the movie "Amistad." by DreamWorks for its soon to be released theatrical feature Amistad.
Echo of Lions was published in 1989 to critical acclaim. The New York Tribune, for example, raved that "the sadness captured in the final pages of this novel is a testimonial to the sensitiveness of an important novelist. She weaves history and fiction with a master's hand." A review in The San Francisco Chronicle observed that Chase-Riboud "is a scrupulous historical researcher who writes movingly of the horrifying, murderous brutality of the slave trade. Her descriptions of the starvation, mass suicides and insanity stir us in a way that a mere historical account could never match." The Cincinnati Post remarked that "Barbara Chase-Riboud will raise not one, but two figures to a higher place in American History. What Chase-Riboud succeeds in doing is illuminating and humanizing a chapter of history that is often overshadowed by the larger events of the Civil War." Similar praise came from Essence Magazine, "[t]he historical backdrop gives . . . a rare glimpse into the lives of free Black men and women in the pre-civil war era and a place for her brilliant depiction of John Quincy Adams." And, Alex Haley called Echo of Lions "[a] brilliant dramatization of the most gripping, significant and epic saga that a century of slave ships ever produced."
Echo of Lions has been translated into five major languages and has sold over 500,000 copies around the world. It is readily available in libraries throughout the United States.
DreamWorks Had Direct Access to Echo of Lions
Among those who read and were moved by Chase-Riboud's rendition of the Amistad story was her close friend Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. After reading the original manuscript (called "The Summer Triangle") in or about the Spring of 1988, Mrs. Onassis asked for and received permission to send it to Amblin Spielberg's production company at that time. The original manuscript is almost identical to the published version of Echo of Lions.
The manuscript was well-received. On or about April 11, 1988, Kathleen Kennedy, an executive at Amblin, wrote Mrs. Onassis that "the book was great clearly the product of passionate research and imaginative writing." Although Kathleen Kennedy was not certain the story was "readily adaptable to a feature film," she stated that the people at Amblin were "anxious to acquaint themselves with Barbara [Chase-Riboud]." A true and correct copy of Kennedy's April 11, 1988 letter is attached to and incorporated into this Complaint as Exhibit A.
At Amblin's request, Chase-Riboud met with Deborah Newmyer, Alex Siskin and other Amblin representatives on or about April 18, 1988. Like Kathleen Kennedy, these executives were enthusiastic about the story.
A week later, however, on or about April 25, 1988, Newmyer and Siskin informed Chase-Riboud that they saw "too many obstacles in adapting [the book] to a feature film." Instead, they seemed to feel that "the material [was] better suited for a mini-series than the large screen." They did indicate, however, that if "the story reach[ed] the screenplay stage in the future, [they] would be thrilled to read and re-consider it." A true and correct copy of Newmyer and Siskin's April 25, 1988 letter is attached to and incorporated into this Complaint as Exhibit B.
Despite their professed misgivings, Amblin never returned Chase-Riboud's manuscript.
When Echo of Lions was published a few months later, Chase-Riboud sent a copy of the finished book to Amblin. She received no response. Again, the book was not returned.
In or about February 1989, Chase-Riboud secured the exclusive rights and privileges in and to Echo of Lions, and received from the Register of Copyrights a certificate of registration effective February 10, 1989, and bearing registration number TX 2-519-903. A true and correct copy of this certificate is attached to and incorporated into this Complaint as Exhibit C.
How Chase-Riboud Discovered DreamWorks' Infringement
In what has become the grandest of Hollywood's contemporary folklore, three of the entertainment industry's most powerful and recognized players joined forces in late 1995 to create the first new major diversified entertainment studio in several decades. They called their venture DreamWorks. Each of the three Jeffery Katzenberg, David Geffen and Spielberg brought to their project differing entertainment experiences, banking on the synergies their unique talents and resources would produce. Katzenberg brought the organizational and management skill he so aptly demonstrated in turning around Disney; Geffen brought his unquestioned prowess for the music business; and everyone expected that Spielberg would bring his unmatched talent for blockbuster motion pictures. Chase-Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that what DreamWorks did not initially tell the public was that Spielberg brought with him from Amblin the Amistad story, as told by Chase-Riboud.
In or about November 1996, Spielberg announced that his first production project for his new studio DreamWorks would be Amistad Spielberg waited until November 1996 to first publicly disclose his intent to tell Chase-Riboud's Amistad story. At that time, DreamWorks announced that the first film that Spielberg would direct for the new studio would be a period drama based on the true story of an 1839 mutiny on the slave ship. The film was of the same name.entitled Amistad. According to the movie's executive producer, Walter Parkes, Spielberg "was taken from the outset with the possibilities of telling an intimate story between two extraordinary men an African slave and an ex-president of the United States set against an epic historical backdrop." Production of the movie was scheduled to start a few months later in February 1997.
From her home in Paris, Chase-Riboud was shocked to hear this announcement and was justifiably concerned that DreamWorks may have, inadvertently or otherwise, infringed her copyright in Echo of Lions. Chase-Riboud faced a similar problem with her first historical novel Sally Hemings. Three years after that book was published, a playwright named Granville Burgess wrote a play on the same subject called "Dusky Sally." After Chase-Riboud wrote a series of letters to Burgess, he filed a lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that his play did not infringe on her book, and Chase-Riboud counterclaimed for copyright infringement. In a landmark copyright decision articulating the copyright protections afforded works of historical fiction, Chase-Riboud ultimately prevailed in the lawsuit before the United States District Court for Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Burgess v. Chase-Riboud, 765 F. Supp. 233 (E.D. Penn. 1991). The Court enjoined Burgess from distributing, producing or selling any rights in the play unless and until he signed an appropriate license agreement with Chase-Riboud.
DuringBeing intimately familiar with every available resource, Chase-Riboud knew the Herculean effort required to recreate the Amistad story from the paltry historical record. In the 150 years between the Amistad mutiny and the publication of Echo of Lionsannouncement of DreamWorks' intent to tell this story, only six other books describing the rebellion. Chase-Riboud is familiar with each of them, and only Echo of Lions has the unmistakable creative inventions that appear in Amistad. had been written. None of these six other books include the creative amalgamation of fact and fiction found in Echo of Lions. Chase-Riboud, therefore, was confident that even if DreamWorks claimed its project as an original creation, any contemporary researcher would have consulted her book for ideas and inspiration. DreamWorks' Incredible, Shifting Explanations
On or about November 22, 1996, To determine whether the Spielberg shooting script borrowed from Echo of Lions, Chase-Riboud contacted DreamWorks. DreamWorks' initial response to her inquiry was to stateChase-Riboud contacted DreamWorks to remind it of her prior submission of Echo of Lions to Spielberg, offer to consult on the movie, and ask whether her book had served as a reference in the development of the Amistad project. DreamWorks responded that "the ship has already sailed on this project" and that the company had no interest in either acquiring her rights to Echo of Lions or retaining her as a consultant. In this conversation, DreamWorks claimed that the shootingits script was based on a book written in the 1980s. The only Amistad book, other than Echo of Lions, published in the 1980s, however, is a textbook called Mutiny on the Amistad. Written by Howard Jones, this textbook takes a purely scholarly approach to the rebellion, focusing on the international diplomatic issues it raised, and bears no resemblance to either Echo of Lions or Amistad.
Realizing the obvious inadequacy of its first explanation as to the movie's origin, and desperate to find some source containing the elements it stole from Echo of Lions, DreamWorks revised its position, claiming that its movie was based on the book The Long Black Schooner. The Long Black Schooner, however, is a children's book, written by Emma Stern and published by Scholastic Inc. in 1953. It lacks many of the historical details unearthed by Chase-Riboud and does not contain any of the literary devices found first in Chase-Riboud's novel and later copied in the Amistad script.
After Chase-Riboud challenged its unconvincing reliance on The Long Black Schooner, DreamWorks invented yet another, a third, "source" for Amistad the book Black Mutiny. (Chase-Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that DreamWorks did not acquire the rights to Black Mutiny until after she accused it of copyright infringement.) Although Black Mutiny, however,Black Mutiny is a work of historical fiction, it not only lacks all of the imaginary characters, dialogue, relationships and scenes shared by the Spielberg movie and Echo of Lions, but reflects the racial stereotypes still prevalent in 1950s American culture. One need look no further than the brief meeting between Adams and Cinque for an example: upon viewing Cinque and the other imprisoned Africans, Adams asks the jailer whether the "two Mulatto bright" Africans "learn better than the others." True and correct copies of the pages from Black Mutiny in which Adams meets Cinque are attached to and incorporated into this Complaint as Exhibit D. Chase-Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that upon realizing the unsavory racist overtone permeating Black Mutiny, DreamWorks has attempted to distance itself from this book. Indeed, the poster advertising Amistad makes no reference whatsoever to Black Mutiny, or any other source for the screenplay.
Unable to put forward any book or other writing as the basis for its movie, DreamWorks devised an even more far-fetched explanation: the Amistad project was based on an "idea" presented to Spielberg by the TV actress Debbie Allen, best known for her role on the television show "Fame." According to DreamWorks, Allen learned about Cinque and the Amistad while visiting Howard University and had "shopped" the idea for some years. Chase-Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that Allen's contribution was simply an unwritten ideaed, if anything, nothing more than the idea of bringing the Amistad affair to the screen. Chase-Riboud is further informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that Allen never took time to express her "idea" in any writing whatsoever, let alone a treatment or screenplay. For her efforts, Allan is credited as a producer of Amistad and has a small role in the picture.
DreamWorks asserts that Amistad is an original Spielberg project and that it hired its own researchers and screenwriters to develop a script based on Allen's idea. According to DreamWorks, its researchers scoured libraries and archives to uncover the story of the Amistadcomplete Amistad story. Amazingly, however, DreamWorks claims that, despite their extensive efforts and the fact that they found The Long Black Schooner, an obscure children's book from the 1950s, these researchers never came across, let alone read, Echo of Lions the most-recent, best-researched, most widely-available, and most-comprehensive rendition of the Amistad saga.
For ten months, Chase-Riboud sought to engage DreamWorks in a meaningful discussion of the origins and references for its project. Chase-Riboud even offered DreamWorks a detailed comparison evidencing the astounding similarities between Echo of Lions and Amistad. DreamWorks, however, never responded.
As early as January 1997, Chase-Riboud understood that DreamWorks was preparing a detailed line-by-line comparison of the script and the book and would forward her a copy when its analysis was completed. Such an analysis, however, was never forthcoming. DreamWorks promised specifically to address each of the explicit similarities noted by Chase-Riboud. DreamWorks' only response, however, was further silence. Other than citing a number of irrelevant secondary sources, DreamWorks never identified or provided Chase-Riboud with any of the "extensive research" that went into its script. In sum, DreamWorks remained mum, leaving the clear impression that DreamWorks had no response, no explanation for the overwhelming similarities between Echo of Lions and Amistad. After receiving no satisfactory response or any settlement offer, Chase-Riboud was forced to bring this action.
The Overwhelming Similarities Between Echo of Lions and Amistad
Nearly every aspect of the Amistad shooting scriptDreamWorks' Amistad, from the title of an earlier version of the screenplay to its final montage, contains themes, dialogue, characters, relationships, plot, and scenes that were originally created by Chase-Riboud for Echo of Lions and have no basis in the historical record. These are Chase-Riboud's own original literary creations, and they are unique and valuable. Set forth below are some of the remarkable similarities in scenes, characters, and images alone between Echo of Lions and Amistad, that cannot be traced to any historical accounts:
Echo of Lions Amistad Shooting Script A. The title of Chase-Riboud's book is Echo of Lions. The title of an earlier version of shooting script was The Other Lion. B. Chase-Riboud created, as one of the book's main characters, a prosperous, erudite, middle-aged, Black man living in New Haven, Connecticut and involved with the printing of abolitionist literature.
The shooting script includes, as one of the movie's main characters, a prosperous, erudite, middle-aged Black man living in New Haven, Connecticut and involved with the printing of abolitionist literature. C. Cinque calls on his ancestors for help in his legal battle. Cinque calls on his ancestors for help in his legal battle: CINQUE: "We won't be going in there alone."
ADAMS: "Indeed not. We have 'right' at our side. We have 'righteousness' at our side. We have Baldwin over there."
CINQUE: "I meant my ancestors . . . I will call into the past, far back to the beginning of time and beg them to come and help me at the judgment. I will reach back and draw them into me. And they must come, for at this moment I am the whole reason they have existed at all." The Black abolitionist printer considers the fact that, if Cinque were white, he would be treated as a hero.
Cinque has one child the existence of this child is a pure invention of Chase-Riboud's.
Before the Supreme Court, Adams argues that "If [Cinque] were white, he wouldn't be standing before this court fighting for his life. If he were white and his enslavers British, he wouldn't be able to stand, so heavy the weight of the medals we would bestow upon him." Cinque has one child. Cinque compares the masts of three ships with the sign of the cross. One of the Africans "stares in awe at the three huge masts and crossbeams looking exactly like the pictures in his Bible of the crosses erected to crucify Christ and the thieves."
Chase-Riboud altered historical fact to describe a scene in which Queen Victoria writes a letter to President Van Buren asking that the Africans be set free. In reality, the letter was written by one of Queen Victoria's ministers to the U.S. Secretary of State. Queen Victoria writes a letter to President Van Buren asking that the Africans be set free.
John Quincy Adams and his wife discuss the "abominable Executive conspiracy going on against the lives of the Africans." A nighttime scene inside the White House is described as follows: "Van Buren, Hammond and Forsyth in the Presidential Office, huddled together in a timeless executive portrait of conspiracy. In another day this could be Nixon, Haldeman and Kissinger." In the scene that follows, these three men conspire to replace the judge presiding over the Africans' trial with one more amenable to the President's will.
Chase-Riboud created an intimate personal relationship between Adams and Cinque in which each respects and is influenced by the other. Through this relationship, Cinque discusses and contributes to his defense. Chase-Riboud transforms Covey, the Mende translator who in reality was a minor historical character, into the literary Cinque's eyes and ears. The shooting script describes an intimate personal relationship between Adams and Cinque in which each respects and is influenced by the other. Through this relationship, Cinque discusses and contributes to his defense.
The shooting script depicts Covey as a major character who is Cinque's eyes and ears. Cinque and his brother-in-law (who is a literary invention of Chase-Riboud's) are captured together. Cinque and his brother-in-law are captured together. In the final scene, Cinque cries out from Africa, and his desperate shout "rumble[s] southwards along the Atlantic coast and the marshes of Delaware, across the Schuykill River Valley to a place they call Gettysburg." In the final scene, a "lone Mende woman's plaintive chant" carries across the sea to a battlefield where "armies of blue- and grey-uniformed soldiers fire on each other from across a field, the smoke from their muskets clouding the sky." Beyond these obvious similarities between Echo of Lions and Amistad, there exist still more similarities between the manuscript "The Summer Triangle" the version of Echo of Lions first sent to Spielberg and the movie. For instance, the original manuscript describes a speech made entirely in Mende that Cinque gives at trial. This same, wholly-imagined scene including the use of Mende language appears in the movie Amistad.
FIRST CLAIM FOR RELIEF
(Copyright Infringement 17 U.S.C. Sections 101 et seq.)
Chase-Riboud realleges and incorporates by reference the allegations set forth above in Paragraphs 1 through 49 inclusive, as though set forth in full.
Echo of Lions contains material wholly original with Chase-Riboud, and is copyrightable subject matter under the laws of the United States.
In or about February 1989, Dr. Chase-Riboud secured the exclusive rights and privileges in and to Echo of Lions, and received from the Register of Copyrights a certificate of registration bearing registration number TX-2-519-903 (Exhibit C).
Chase-Riboud is currently and always has been the sole proprietor of all right, title and interest in and to the copyright in Echo of Lions. She has produced and distributed this book in strict conformity with the provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976 and all other laws governing copyright.
As the sole proprietor of all right, title and interest in and to the copyright in Echo of Lions, Chase-Riboud has exclusive right to, among other things, prepare derivative works based on this book or transfer this right to someone else.
By producing Amistad, a movie undeniably derived from Echo of Lions, DreamWorks knowingly and willingly infringed, and will continue to infringe, Chase-Riboud's copyright in this book.
As a direct and proximate result of DreamWorks' copyright infringement, Chase-Riboud has suffered and will continue to suffer severe injuries and damage, much of which cannot be reasonably or adequately measured or compensated in damages. Such injuries and damage include, but are not limited to, the fact that Chase-Riboud has been unfairly deprived of: (1) just compensation, including the income from selling the movie rights to Echo of Lions and a percentage of profits from Amistad, that she deserves for her enormous contribution to this movie; (2) the fair opportunity to republish Echo of Lions due to the saturation of the market with "Amistad" books to be published in conjunction with DreamWorks' Amistad; and (3) appropriate recognition, including a screen credit, to which she is undeniably entitled. Chase-Riboud's exact amount of damages will be proven at trial, but they are in no event less than $10,000,000.
Chase-Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that in doing the acts described above, DreamWorks acted with oppression, fraud, malice and ill will toward Chase-Riboud and in wanton disregard of Chase-Riboud's rights and with the intent to injure her and cause her damage. Accordingly, Chase-Riboud is entitled to an award of punitive damages.
SECOND CLAIM FOR RELIEF
(Unfair Competition 15 U.S.C. Sections 1117, 1125(a))
Chase-Riboud realleges and incorporates by reference the allegations set forth above in Paragraphs 1 through 57 inclusive, as though set forth in full.
By claiming that Black Mutiny is the inspiration for Amistad, and ignoring Echo of Lions, the book upon which the movie actually is based, DreamWorks has made and will continue to make a false and misleading designation about the origin of this movie in violation of the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. Sections 1117 and 1125(a).
As a result of this false and misleading designation, it is likely that the public who watch the movie at the theaters, on video, on television and elsewhere will be confused about the source upon which Amistad is based.
Chase-Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that Amistad will be placed in the stream of interstate commerce as DreamWorks will distribute the movie in every state and throughout the world.
As a direct and proximate result of DreamWorks' unfair trade practices and unfair competition, Chase-Riboud has suffered and will continue to suffer severe injuries and damage, much of which cannot be reasonably or adequately measured or compensated in damages. Such injuries and damage include, but are not limited to, the fact that Chase-Riboud has been unfairly deprived of: (1) just compensation, including the income from selling the movie rights to Echo of Lions and a percentage of profits from Amistad, that she deserves for her enormous contribution to this movie; (2) the fair opportunity to republish Echo of Lions due to the saturation of the market with "Amistad" books to be published in conjunction with DreamWorks' Amistad; and (3) appropriate recognition, including a screen credit, to which she is undeniably entitled. Chase-Riboud's exact amount of damages will be proven at trial, but they are in no event less than $10,000,000.
Chase-Riboud is informed and believes, and on that basis alleges, that in doing the acts described above, DreamWorks acted with oppression, fraud, malice and ill will toward Chase-Riboud and in wanton disregard of Chase-Riboud's rights and with the intent to injure her and cause her damage. Accordingly, Chase-Riboud is entitled to receive treble damages and her reasonable attorneys fees.
THIRD CLAIM FOR RELIEF
(Breach of Implied Contract)
Chase-Riboud realleges and incorporates by reference the allegations set forth above in Paragraphs 1 through 63 inclusive, as though set forth in full.
At all relevant times since Chase-Riboud discussed her idea for an Amistad movie with the executives at Amblin, DreamWorks has understood and agreed that Chase-Riboud's idea could be used only if they paid Chase-Riboud for its reasonable value.
With this knowledge, DreamWorks has produced a movie using Chase-Riboud's idea.
Chase-Riboud has not received any compensation from DreamWorks for its use of her idea for an Amistad movie.
Accordingly, DreamWorks has violated its implied agreement with Chase-Riboud.
The reasonable value of Chase-Riboud's idea for an Amistad movie is no less than $10,000,000.
FOURTH CLAIM FOR RELIEF
Chase-Riboud realleges and incorporates by reference the allegations set forth above in Paragraphs 1 through 69 inclusive, as though set forth in full.
An actual controversy has arisen and now exists between Chase-Riboud and DreamWorks in that Chase-Riboud contends and DreamWorks denies that DreamWorks infringed on Chase-Riboud's copyright in Echo of Lions and made use of her idea for a movie about Cinque and the Amistad.
Chase-Riboud desires a judicial determination of this issue.
Such a declaration is necessary and appropriate at this time in order that Chase-Riboud may ascertain her rights to compensation and credit for her contribution to Amistad.
FIFTH CLAIM FOR RELIEF
Chase-Riboud realleges and incorporates by reference the allegations set forth above in Paragraphs 1 through 73 inclusive, as though set forth in full.
DreamWorks wrongful conduct described above, unless and until enjoined and restrained by order of this Court, will cause great and irreparable injury to Chase-Riboud in that such conduct, among other things, may prevent her from receiving appropriate credit for her contribution to Amistad.
Chase-Riboud has no adequate remedy at law for many of the injuries that are threatened in that it will be impossible for Chase-Riboud to determine the precise amount of damage she will suffer if DreamWorks' conduct is not restrained.
PRAYER FOR RELIEF
WHEREFORE, Chase-Riboud prays for judgment against DreamWorks as follows:
ON THE FIRST CAUSE OF ACTION
For Chase-Riboud and against DreamWorks on the first cause of action for copyright infringement;
For an injunction ordering that DreamWorks and its agents and employees be permanently enjoined from infringing on Chase-Riboud's copyright in Echo of Lions in any manner, including distributing or showing Amistad without Chase-Riboud's express consent;
For such compensatory damages as Chase-Riboud has sustained as a consequence of DreamWorks' illegal infringement of her copyright, in an amount to be proven at trial, together with interest thereon as provided by law, but in no event less than $10,000,000 (excluding interest);
For an accounting of all gains, profits and advantages DreamWorks derive from its copyright infringement of Echo of Lions;
For punitive damages according to proof at trial;
For the costs of suit and reasonable attorneys' fees; and
For such other and further relief as the Court deems appropriate.
ON THE SECOND CAUSE OF ACTION
For Chase-Riboud and against DreamWorks on the second cause of action for unfair competition under Section 43(a) of the Lanham Act in amount to be proven at trial, but in no event less than $10,000,000;
For an injunction ordering that DreamWorks and its agents and employees be permanently enjoined from designating anything other than Echo of Lions as the inspiration for and basis of Amistad;
For three times the amount of damages as Chase-Riboud has sustained as a consequence of DreamWorks' false designation, including the inability to republish Echo of Lions;
For the costs of suit and reasonable attorneys' fees; and
For such other and further relief as the Court deems appropriate.
ON THE THIRD CAUSE OF ACTION
For Chase-Riboud and against DreamWorks on the third cause of action for breach of implied contract;
For such damages as Chase-Riboud has sustained as a consequence of DreamWorks' breach of implied contract, in an amount to be proven at trial, together with interest thereon as provided by law, but in no event less than $10,000,000;
For the costs of suit and reasonable attorneys' fees; and
For such other and further relief as the Court deems appropriate.
ON THE FOURTH CAUSE OF ACTION
For a declaration that DreamWorks infringed on Chase-Riboud's copyright in Echo of Lions and made use of her idea for a movie about Cinque and the Amistad; and
For such other and further relief as the Court deems appropriate.
ON THE FIFTH CAUSE OF ACTION
For a preliminary injunction and permanent injunction ordering that DreamWorks and its agents and employees be enjoined from (1) infringing on Chase-Riboud's copyright in Echo of Lions in any manner, including distributing or showing Amistad without Chase-Riboud's consent; and (2) designating anything other than Echo of Lions as the inspiration for Amistad; and For such other and further relief as the Court deems appropriate.
DATED: October 17, 1997
O'DONNELL & SHAEFFER, LLP
Attorneys for Plaintiff
JURY TRIAL DEMANDED
Plaintiff Chase-Riboud hereby requests a trial by jury on each cause of action alleged in the Complaint.
DATED: October 17, 1997
O'DONNELL & SHAEFFER, LLP
Attorneys for Plaintiff
23 23 O'Donnell & Shaeffer, llp
O'DONNELL & SHAEFFER, LLP