Last week, I wrote about the importance of registering your copyright, in the context of the recent lawsuit about Cabin in the Woods.
I also wanted to mention one major issue with the suit: many of the alleged similarities between the works are fundamental tropes of the horror genre.
Without giving too much away, both Cabin in the Woods and the plaintiff’s book are twists on the stereotypical horror film. As such, both include elements that have become almost necessary for horror movies: a jock, a blonde, and prude, a goofball, and a scholar, among other tropes.
These elements that are fundamental to the genre are often called scenes a faire, and cannot really be used to show similarity between the plaintiff’s work and the alleged infringing work. Take, for instance, a tumbleweed in a western. If I made a western, and I allege someone copied my movie because their shootout also involved a tumbleweed in the background I would be laughed out of court. It’s so fundamental to the genre that it’s not evidence I was copied, it’s evidence that both of the films were westerns.
Not all similarities between works are evidence of infringement. In many cases, it’s evidence that two people were both drawing from the same well of tropes and myth.