Readings — From the April 2015 issue

Genre Friction

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From a February order by a U.S. magistrate judge denying summary judgment in Latele Television, C.A. v. Telemundo Communications Group, LLC. The suit argues that El Rostro de Analía, a telenovela produced by Telemundo, infringes on the copyright for Latele’s telenovela Maria Maria.

At issue are 198 episodes of Maria Maria and 178 episodes of El Rostro de Analía. Defendants describe Maria Maria as a romance, a “typical novella” opening with a homemaker obsessed with revenge against a man she wrongly believes disgraced her father. After a car crash she suffers amnesia and by accident a plastic surgeon gives her another woman’s face. The story is resolved when she regains her memory and falls in love with the man. Defendants describe ERA as a sci-fi thriller and police drama, beginning with the head of an airline finding out that her husband has cheated on her. After a car crash, her memory is erased by a mad scientist who applies cloning techniques to give her another woman’s face. She takes on the identity of the other woman and infiltrates the mob, leading to scenes of torture and shooting. The end is a resolution: the villains are jailed and the protagonist is reunited with her husband.

Latele contends that both works have too many identical creative licenses to be dismissed as pure coincidence: supposed human remains are found at the crash scene; the gun used to force the protagonist to drive mysteriously disappears; the passenger is inexplicably kidnapped after being ejected from the car upon impact; the protagonist happens to be the exact same size as the person whose identity she assumes; and both the surviving victims’ bodies are repaired without any evidence of burns or scarring. Latele proffers more “can’t-just-be-a-coincidence” factors; the Court is not listing all of them here.

Recognizing that there are similarities between the two works, Defendants say that jealousy, betrayal, amnesia, out-of-wedlock children, mistaken identities, family strife, marital conflict, the reuniting of long-lost relatives or lovers, plastic surgery, and assumed identities are “melodramatic plot elements common to the genre,” no more protectable than a car-chase scene or an alien invasion.

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