Could Shia LaBeouf Face Legal Action for ''?

By Jenny Tsay, Esq. on December 19, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Shia LaBeouf's new film, "," is coming under fire for allegedly plagiarizing content from a graphic novel.

Graphic novelist Daniel Clowes is accusing LaBeouf of ripping work directly from his comic, entitled "Justin M. Damiano," for LaBeouf's short film, which was posted online Monday.

So what can LaBeouf do to "transform" his film in order to avoid legal action?

Inspiration v. Copying

Shia LaBeouf's short film "" first appeared at film festivals in 2012. "" tracks in the inner monologue of a film critic -- which is exactly what happens in Clowes' graphic novel. In fact, Wired compared the film dialogue with the comic and found that both open with the same exact dialogue and scene.

Using content verbatim and passing it off as your own can potentially be copyright infringement. The individual who created the work is the copyright owner, who has the exclusive rights to:

  • Reproduce the work;
  • Prepare derivative works based upon the original copyright;
  • Distribute copies, license, sell, or transfer ownership of the work; and
  • Perform or publicly display the work.

Of course, a person can be inspired by a copyright-protected work and use ideas that derived from that stroke of inspiration. For example, if LaBeouf had read Clowes' comic and was inspired by the idea of capturing the internal monologue of a film critic, that'd be perfectly fine. The basic idea of a story about a film critic is not copyrightable, but the graphics and content that are in the comic are protected.

Fill in All the 'Holes': Give Credit to Original Authors

LaBeouf has apologized via social media for failing to properly give credit to Clowes in "" "Im embarrassed that I failed to credit @danielclowes for his original graphic novella Justin M. Damiano, which served as my inspiration," LaBeouf tweeted on Tuesday.

In doing so, LaBeouf is taking a step in the right direction to remedy this apparent copyright foul. But if Clowes eventually decides to take legal action, LaBeouf may have to pay up.

There's a lot of interesting copyrighted material out there that would make great films. Why do you think there are so many films based on a novel or story? Getting the original author's permission to use their work in your own work is the best practice.

Original authors work hard for their money, so make sure they get the credit they deserve.

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