My new favorite court case, and it involves Jurassic Park

For those who can’t tell, I love Jurassic Park. Of course, who doesn’t? Its fun, interesting, has dinosaurs and Unix. Now you’re probably saying, “I know this!” But you probably didn’t know that the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals knows this, too, and has officially recognized, in law, forever, the awesomeness of Jurassic Park. Thus, behold the case of Williams v. Crichton. (PDF: Williams v. Crichton)

For those who don’t want to read the whole thing, I’ll cut to the meaty center: About 20% of this case is just summarizing the plot to Jurassic Park. I can’t imagine which clerk got the cushy job of reading and summarizing Jurassic Park for the court. Really, what were his conversations like?

Clerk 1: I have to research the legislative history of tariffs on beets to determine what sort of regulatory structure Congress intended for various rooted vegetables. What about you?

Clerk 2: I have to read Jurassic Park and then watch the movie Jurassic Park, and then summarize the plot.

[Judge walks in]

Judge: Hey Clerk 2, how’s the progress on the research for the Williams v. Crichton case?

Clerk 2: Its going well, but I think I need to watch the film again to really get a sense of its copyrightable attributes as distinct from mere scenes a faire.

Judge: Very well, keep working.

Clerk 1: I really hope we have a copyright infringement case about Congo, because I’m sure there was a previous story about supermonkeys using diamond-powered lasers.

Anyways, the point of the summary was to compare Jurassic Park to some guy claiming Michael Crichton ripped him off, violating the copyright of his “Dinosaur World” books, which were short children’s books with titles like “Saber Tooth: A Dinosaur World Adventure.”  Basically, the books are like what Jurassic Park would have been like if it had actually opened.  Booooring. Plus, this joke had already been made in the future by the Simpsons:

For those who do not want to watch a video, or if the Hulu video isn’t working, which is wasn’t when I wrote this, you can read the words said by the characters in that wonderful 5th season episode, “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song”:

At the Kwik-E-Mart, Apu chides Bart for abusing the self-serve ice cream dispenser and making a foot-high cone.  Milhouse spies a familiar face in one of the aisles.

Milhouse: Bart, look!  It’s Principal Skinner.  And I think he’s gone crazy — he’s not wearing a suit or tie or anything!

Bart: [approaches him] Principal Skinner?  Um, I’m real sorry about my dog getting you fired, and biting you, and then getting it on with your leg.

Skinner: Well…maybe it was for the best.  Now I…I finally have time to do what I’ve always wanted: write the great American novel. Mine is about a futuristic amusement park where dinosaurs are brought to life through advanced cloning techniques.  I call it “Billy and the Cloneasaurus.”

Apu: Oh, you have _got_ to be kidding sir.  First you think of an idea that has already been done.  Then you give it a title that nobody could possibly like.  Didn’t you think this through…[later]…was on the bestseller list for eighteen months! Every magazine cover had…[later]…most popular movies of all time, sir!  What were you thinking?!  [realizing] I mean, thank you, come again.

However, the best part of this case isn’t just the retelling of the epic Jurassic Park story, even the part where “Velociraptors hunting in packs attack many people, killing some and narrowly missing others.  The children are attacked by a pack while hiding in the headquarter’s cafeteria, but they manage to trick the velociraptors into entering a giant freezer.” 84 F.3d 581, 586. The best part is not even footnote 2:
“Malcolm, near death, argues with Hammond that the park was doomed to failure from the beginning.  Hammond stalks off, and is soon killed and eaten by procompsognathids.  Malcolm also dies, succumbing to his injuries.2
2.   What seems to use a clear case of death is made more ambiguous by the sequel to Jurassic Park, a novel entitled The Lost World, where Malcolm is again a central character.

Not only must some clerk have read Jurassic Park, but The Lost World as well. Best clerk job ever (except maybe when the pre-Miller Supreme Court got to watch pornos all day long to decide if they were obscene or not). However, this leads to the Best part of this case. Now, due to this footnote, the plothole between Jurassic Park and The Lost World is now part of the official legal record. It can be cited in future cases and be held as binding. Sure, one could argue that this line, and indeed most of the summary of Jurassic Park, was just dicta. I say shut up.

Sure, maybe none of the other cases that cite this case deal directly with dinosaurs, but that doesn’t mean they can’t make references to dinosaurs when discussing applicability of this case:

“characters escape deadly, pack-hunting dinosaurs … when another dinosaur intervenes.” Robinson v. New Line Cinema, 42 F.Supp.2d 578, 593.

“electrical fences, automated tours, dinosaur nurseries, and uniformed workers were all ‘classic scenes a faire that flow from the uncopyrightable concept of a dinosaur zoo.'” Randolph v. Dimension Films, 634 F.Supp.2d 779, 790.

“Both stories centered a small group of individuals, including a knowledgeable adult guide and young dinosaur enthusiasts. Both depicted harrowing encounters with carnivorous dinosaurs from which the human characters escaped, via helicopter, ‘through the combined wit of the children and adults.'” Hudson v. Universal Studios, 2008 WL 4701488

Thanks to this case, contemporary and future jurists dealing with copyright cases can talk about dinosaurs. All judges who have a chance to use this case should use this case, simply as an excuse to deluge our judicial system with references to dinosaurs. (Also, any case citing this one should refer to its dissenting opinion as “inflicting dino-damage”)

Justice Scalia is a Battle-Ravaged Allosaurus

In conclusion, Jurassic Park is now legal canon, and it should remain that way, forever. Or, as Ryan Q. North put it referencing another wonderful pastime:

Question: Does the USS Enterprise not exist on the new Star Trek timeline?

One response to “My new favorite court case, and it involves Jurassic Park


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