|Stromback v. New Line Cinema
Full Sail University
1. Briefly describe the facts that led to the dispute in this case.
In November 2000, New Line Cinema (NLC) released a movie named Little
Nicky. This movie starred Adam Sandler, and was a story involving the Devil and his
decision to rule for another 10,000 years in Hell. (Stromback, pg.2) The Devil has three
sons and when he makes this decision, the two eldest brothers are upset by this and
escape to earth. Little Nicky, played by Adam Sandler, is entrusted by the Devil to travel
to earth and bring them back so that his reign may be saved. (Stromback, pg. 2)
Two years prior to the release of this film a man by the name of Douglas Alan
Stromback, an aspiring actor and screenwriter, had written a poem called “The Keeper”.
(Stromback, pg.1) Shortly thereafter he adapted the screenplay by the same name and
both were registered with the Copyright Office. He later shared the story with industry
professionals to get critical feedback. When Stromback viewed the movie in a theater he
believed he saw similarities between his work and Little Nicky. He truly believed that
many scenes from the movie depicted his own story that was already under copyright.
2. What were the legal claims and/or defenses of the parties, and what arguments did they make to support them?
Stromback claimed that what he viewed in the movie not only had similarities in
theme, but the character treatment, development, and idiosyncratic character traits were
similar as well. (Stromback, pg.1) He argued that the actions of the protagonist, Ted, in
his story could be inferred as having been evil or “Devil” like. Also in his story are three
individuals whom are hired to murder the protagonist in the story.
3. What was the court’s decision and why did it make that decision?
The courts decision was to not find in favor of the Plaintiff, Mr. Stromback. The
reasoning was that his claims of similarities were too insignificant and scattered.
(Stromback, pg.4) Also, some of the alleged similarities were found to be non-existent or
just simply overstated.
4. Using facts from the case, explain why you agree or disagree with the outcome.
I completely agree with the outcome of this case. One glaring claim from the
Stromback case, was that the development of the main characters for each story, Ted and
Little Nicky, followed the same line. ‘Ted’ in “The Keeper” uses puns and is a rhymer of
words. With the character Little Nicky, this is not a character trait. So this argument is
null and void. Stromback claimed that his story dealt with his character saving the world
and souls. (Stromback, pg.4) However citing the similarities in reference to Hell, the
court said the similarities were too far apart to be relevant. Again, I agree here. After
reading through the transcripts, these stories are definitely different in their total nature.
Little Nicky is on a mission to save souls and the world through the quest his father, the
Devil, sends him on. In the story of “The Keeper”, the protagonist and his journey
involves more of a self-interest approach. In my opinion, Mr. Stromback was trying too
hard to find similarities with another story he had written.
5. What new vocabulary did you learn from reading this case?
The new vocabulary I learned was scenes a faire. This is the term for a
scene in a book or film which is almost obligatory for a genre of its type.
Quote: “Second, the principle of scenes a faire excludes copyright protection for
incidents, characters or settings which are as a practical matter indispensable, or at least
standard, in the treatment of a given topic.” (Stromback, pg. 3)
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (September 14, 2004) Douglas Alan
Stromback, Plaintiff v. New Line Cinema, Defendant (pages 1-4)