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6 MOS

Disney Beats Writer's Claim of Stealing 'Mr. Young'

The dispute was heard at the U.S. International Trade Commission, investigating whether Disney had unfairly imported a Canadian TV show.

Disney has survived a claim that it stole the television show, Mr. Young.

The outcome isn't particularly surprising given the high bars to prove infringement. What makes the dispute rather unusual, though, was the forum of adjudication.

The complaint was filed by Emir Tiar. He first filed a $100 million lawsuit against Disney and William Morris Endeavor agents. But that was withdrawn in favor of an action at the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Why the quasi-judicial federal agency that oversees trade policy would want to wade inside the muddy waters of stolen ideas in Hollywood is anybody's guess, but last June, the USITC voted to institute a Section 337 Investigation of Tiar's allegations. The proceeding was meant to determine whether Disney violated the Tariff Act of 1930 by importing TV programs by unfair methods of competition.

Tiar claimed he had written a script and show bible for a program entitled "Student Teacher," a comedy about a middle school student who becomes the teacher of his class and must contend with a bully and other students. He alleged similarities to Mr. Young, which first aired on the Canadian network YTV and is about a young prodigy who becomes a high school science teacher. Thunderbird Films produced Mr. Young and sold it to Disney HD channel.

Tiar alleged that he had gotten in touch with a WME agent through a real estate agent working in Hollywood and was told that "Student Teacher" needed a well-known producer to market the script. In 2009, he says the WME agent told him that his work was too high concept for American audiences. His ITC complaint described the harm that would come should "unethical agents and producers use unfair methods of competition to create programs based on the work of others."

The dispute led to an eight-month proceeding at the ITC, and according to the respondents' attorneys at Fox Rothschild, the matter just ended with a determination that Mr. Young was independently created well prior to Tiar's submission. The ruling also said there wasn't substantial similarity, and as a result, Tiar couldn't prove his claim of unfair methods of competition. Here's what the ITC had to say about the copyright issue with a full determination to be issued soon after the parties have had an opportunity to redact confidential business information.

E-mail: Eriq.Gardner@THR.com
Twitter: @eriqgardner