Gilliam’s THE ZERO THEOREM Under Legal Fire Over Graffiti Copyright


A trio of street artists from Buenos Ares have filed a request to stop next month’s release of Terry Gilliam’s film The Zero Theorem, claiming that the film “blatantly and intentionally infringed, and are continuing to infringe, Plaintiffs’ intellectual property in the Copyrighted Artwork, by copying the work and using it in connection with the promotion and distribution of Defendants’ motion picture film, The Zero Theorem, which has already been released in foreign countries and is due to be released in the U.S. in a few weeks’ time.”

The suit names Gilliam, the film’s production designed David Warren, production company Voltage Pictures and distributor Amplify amongst the defendants.

The trio state that the film, which stars Christoph Waltz, Matt Damon and Tilda Swinton, appropriated a number of designs that they first painted in 2010. The included in their filing (obtained by Deadine) the following comparison, stating that their designs were showing up on the outdoor walls of Waltz’s character’s home as well as a sex shop located next door.


It should be noted that the artists registered their mural with the Copyright Office in Argentina, under the title Castillo effective on November 15, 2013. However, that is nearly one year after the film’s production period, which ran from October 22 to December 3, 2012, a fact that the filing does note. There is no explanation in the filing as to why they took three years to register that copyright.

I do disagree with the plaintiff’s assertion that there is “no way to ‘cut’ the Infringing Work out of the Film.” It may cost a bit, but it should be fairly easy to digitally paint out the graffiti and replace it with other designs.

But this does put Amplify in a rather difficult position. I hate to say it but the plaintiffs do see to have a pretty strong case. The Zero Theorem‘s scheduled Video On Demand release date is next Tuesday, August 19, with a limited theatrical release set for September 19.

And whatever the outcome, hopefully, this won’t scare away the financing that Gilliam has managed to put together to finally get his long in development project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote in front of cameras by the year’s end.

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About Rich Drees 7123 Articles
A film fan since he first saw that Rebel Blockade Runner fleeing the massive Imperial Star Destroyer at the tender age of 8 and a veteran freelance journalist with twenty-five years experience writing about film and pop culture. He is a member of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle.
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