Appeals Court Confirms Fox's Victory in 'Percy Jackson' Copyright Lawsuit

Two authors fail to show how "Percy Jackson" is substantially similar to their own "Percy John" young-adult book series.
Doane Gregory/Fox 2000 Pictures

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the dismissal of a copyright lawsuit that claimed the Percy Jackson series of novels and film lifted material from a series of young-adult books.

Robyn and Tony DiTocco sued 20th Century Fox, the Walt Disney Co. and others in 2010, alleging that the Percy Jackson franchise was substantially similar to their own books about a teenager named PJ ("Percy John") who descended from the Greek mythological hero Perseus, summoned to fight ancient battles in order to save the world while balancing the demands of an every-day teenager.

Last September, New York federal judge Sidney Stein rejected the lawsuit by pointing to the dissimilarities, including that the plaintiffs' books are told in third person while the defendants' series are told in the first person, that the plaintiffs' protagonist is a few years older than the defendants' and that the plaintiffs' tale of Greek mythology is told through exposition whereas the defendants' brush with history comes through conversations.

In a short summary judgment order on Wednesday, the 2nd Circuit says the district court offered a "well-reasoned opinion."

The appellate ruling also provides the guidance that "the subject matter of these novels necessitates significant reliance on Greek mythology for many characters, settings and classic stories. This material has entered the public domain and is not protectible."

As for the protectible elements, the "total concept and overall feel" is deemed to be different.

In the more popular work, the Olympic gods are in modern times of sunglasses and cellphones as opposed to the less popular work where the main character is a modern guy who is whisked away in his dreams to Ancient Greece.

The suing authors were represented by Marc Toberoff. The victorious studios were represented by Sanford Litvack at Gogan Lovells and David Singer at Jenner & Block.

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