Fox Wins ‘Touch’ Copyright Lawsuit

Judge finds that Fox drama "Touch" did not infringe on writer's screenplay and novel

Fox did not steal the idea for its Kiefer Sutherland drama "Touch," a judge has ruled. 

Judge William H. Pauley of U.S. District Court in New York on Wednesday threw out a lawsuit filed against Fox Entertainment Group, Peter Chernin, Chernin Entertainment, "Touch" creator Tim Kring and series star/executive producer Sutherland that alleged they had taken the concept for the series from writer Everette Hallford's work.

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Everette had claimed that "Touch" was lifted from his screenplay "Prodigy" and his novel "Visionary," saying that the series is "a remolecularized version" of the two works.

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According to Hallford's complaint, "Touch" bore numerous resemblances to his works. According to Judge Pauley's ruling, "Prodigy" centers around an investigative journalist who, with the help of an autistic boy, solves a mystery about a man who prevented a train wreck. "Touch," meanwhile, concerns a father who cannot communicate with his son. The son, however, can predict events before they happen and has a gift for discovering mathematical patterns and how different people are destined to find each other.

In his complaint, Hallford said that he copyrighted his screenplay in 2002 and registered it with the Writers Guild of America. Hallford also claimed to have disseminated the screenplay in various forums.

Hallford also said that, in 2009, he gave a copy of the novel, along with a password providing online access to the "Prodigy" screenplay to an employee at Schneider's Children's Hospital, who said he would pass the material along to Kring.

However, in his decision to grant the plaintiffs' motion to dismiss the suit, Judge Pauley said that Hallford could not claim copyright infringement of two separate works.

"[C]opyright infringement requires a substantial similarity between a protected work and an infringing work," Pauley said in his decision. "To state a claim, Hallford cannot mix and match alleged similarities between 'Touch' and other works that are not related to one another."

Pauley went on to note that the plot, sequence, characters and pacing of "Touch" differ from those of "Prodigy."

"At the broadest level, 'Prodigy' and 'Touch' are similar in theme," Pauley wrote. "But copyright does not protect such breadth."

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.