French Publisher Planning to Sue 'Starbuck' Filmmakers Over Alleged Plagiarism

Starbuck Poster - P 2012

Starbuck Poster - P 2012

Jean-Claude Gawsewitch says Ken Scott’s Canadian comedy pulls its storyline directly from Guillaume Cochin’s 2007 book, "Spermatofolie."

Canadian comedy Starbuck has had audiences laughing across the globe since it premiered in Toronto last year, but French publisher Jean-Claude Gawsewitch doesn’t find the film funny and is accusing the filmmakers of plagiarism. Gawsewitch says the film was based on the 2007 book Spermatofolie, written by Guillaume Cochin.

Both stories feature a main character struggling in life who discovers he has fathered hundreds of children via artificial insemination.

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The film, directed by Ken Scott and written by Scott and Martin Petit, is produced by Caramel Films’ Andre Rouleau and has been distributed in Canada by Les Films Christal.

In letters he has sent to both Caramel Films and Films Christal, copies of which were provided to The Hollywood Reporter, French lawyer Gilles William Goldanel said that he has been retained to sue the two companies, and while no court date has been set, he requested the names of the companies' attorneys. 

“You must understand that Monsieur Guillaume Cochin cannot accept watching such an idea exploited by others with such a profit without even the slightest reference given to, dare I say, the paternity of its creator,” the letters said.

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Breakout hit Starbuck took in more than $3.5 million at the Canadian box office and is getting a U.S. makeover from DreamWorks with a New York-based storyline starring Vince Vaughn and Chris Pratt. Scott will direct from his own script, with Rouleau on to produce alongside exec producer Scott Mednick plus Ray Angelic and Mark Sourian.

The French-Canadian comedy has been successful in France, where it has sold 270,000 tickets to date.

Rouleau, who produced the project, said that he contacted Scott and Petit, both of whom had never heard of the book in question.

“It’s the same idea,” Gawsewitch told THR. adding that the sperm donor-turned-father of hundreds of children storyline is not common: “There haven’t been many stories about this unique subject. If it were a love story, we could say there have been many, but this is different.”

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He added, "There's no reason for me to let this slide."

Rouleau, who produced the project, has told the French press that neither Scott or Petit had ever heard of Cochin's book. But neither he nor the film's distributors responded to requests for further comment.