October 31, 2019
A U.S. District Court has ruled that the copyright suit against Jerry Seinfeld, brought by his former colleague, was barred by the statute of limitations.
As reported by Variety, Christian Charles, a long-time collaborator of Jerry Seinfeld, alleged that he pitched the idea for the hit series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” to Seinfeld in 2002, only to have his idea rejected at the time. Years later in 2011, the two purportedly agreed to work together on the project. However, a dispute arose between Seinfeld and Charles over co-ownership rights and Charles left the show after receiving $107,734 from Seinfeld for his work on the pilot.
In February 2018, only a few months after the show had moved to Netflix, Charles filed a copyright infringement suit against Seinfeld, Netflix and Sony Pictures Television. Seinfeld claimed that the suit was time-barred by the three year limitation period. The Court agreed with Seinfeld, holding that “[b]cause Charles was on notice that his ownership claim had been repudiated since at least 2012, his infringement claim is time-barred.” The key issue for the court was not the nature or the extent of copyright infringement; rather, it was whether Charles's alleged contributions qualified him as the author of the show at issue.
After the ruling, Seinfeld's attorney commented that the lawsuit was “nothing but a money-grab seeking to capitalize on the success of the show.” Meanwhile, Charles's attorney stated that his client was “likely to appeal” the decision.
Authors: Sam Galway and Clara Ryu