In an opinion yesterday, Judge Hellerstein dismissed a suit claiming that the popular novel The Art of Fielding unlawfully misappropriated elements of the story from an unpublished novel called Bucky’s 9th. After reading both works, Judge Hellerstein found they were not substantially similar:
When read in context, the portions or features of TOAF that are alleged to be similar to Bucky’s are either abstract ideas, scenes a faire, or trivial details insignificant to the either of the two works. True, both works are about a struggling Division III baseball college team, and both works track the baseball team’s changed fortunes after the arrival of a new player. But that is the extent of the similarities.
The plaintiff’s brief focused “on one scene, his self-proclaimed strongest argument, pointing to what he alleges to be the ‘climax’ of both works” when “with two outs and two strikes, the ‘prodigy’ pinch hits and gets beaned by the third pitch.” But Judge Hellerstein was not persuaded by the similar “beaning” scenes, either:
Bucky arrives in the ninth inning as the team’s best player, and is intentionally beaned by the opposing team. Henry arrives in the ninth inning as the team’s lesser substitute, who is ultimately willing to sacrifice himself by intentionally getting beaned. That the Oaks ultimately lose the game, whereas the Harpooners win, further highlights the significant difference in meaning and importance of the beaning scene in each respective work. In short, when read in context, none of Plaintiffs allegations of substantial similarity hold up, the beaning scene included.