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Amistad Mutiny

The Movie And Plagiarism

The 1997 movie by Steven Spielberg and his company, Dream Works SKG, is a fictitious rendering of the real events that ensued between 1839 and 1841. But before the movie was released, an author who had written a historical novel about the uprising attempted to halt the film's release, charging the moviemakers with COPYRIGHT infringement. Filing suit in October 1997, Barbara Chase-Riboud sought $10 million in damages and screenwriting ACKNOWLEDGMENT, based upon alleged PLAGIARISM of her novel, Echo of Lions. In December, a federal district judge declined to delay the movie's opening, ruling that the similarities between the movie and the novel did not establish a probability of success for Chase-Riboud but did raise serious questions for trial.

The plagiarism suit took a strange turn in December 1997 when the New York Times reported that Chase-Riboud had plagiarized several passages of her 1986 book, Valide: A Novel of the Harem, from a nonfiction book published 50 years earlier. Chase-Riboud admitted to the New York Times that she had used material for Valide without attribution. Dream Works also charged that Chase-Riboud had taken passages for Echo of Lions from a 1953 novel, Slave Rebellion, by William A. Owens, the book optioned by Amistad producers for the movie.

In early 1998 Chase-Riboud and Dream-Works settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount. In dropping the lawsuit, Chase-Riboud stated that she and her attorneys had concluded that neither Spielberg nor Dream Works had done anything improper.

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