Court dismisses comic writer's <i>Zohan</i> copyright-infringement lawsuit

A federal judge has dismissed a comic writer's claims that Adam Sandler, Columbia Pictures and parent company Sony Picture stole his idea for a hairdresser-turned-hero and transformed it into the movie You Don't Mess With the Zohan.

Robert Cabell filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit in February 2009 accusing the studio, Sandler and screenwriters Robert Smigel and Judd Apatow of ripping off his comic The Hair-Raising Adventures of Jayms Blonde, about a Navy SEAL-turned-hairdresser who fights crime armed with a blow dryer.

Cabell created Jayms Blonde -- aka "Secret Agent 69" -- in 2000, and released the comic online two years later. He allegedly pitched a Jayms Blonde movie to Columbia in 2007, around the time Sandler began filming Zohan.

In granting Sony's motion for summary judgment, U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III determined the works weren't substantially similar, finding that the concept of a blow dryer being used as a weapon is an "unprotectable" idea not subject to copyright. The court also noted, somewhat hilariously, that the blow dryers are different: "Blonde holds a blow dryer that purports to be a 'mini Uzi blowdryer' with a black muzzle — a real weapon disguised as a blow dryer. In contrast, Zohan’s blow dryer is just that, with glowing red heating elements visible in its muzzle."

Pauley also concluded that Zohan doesn't infringe on the Jayms Blonde storylines, which "are parodies of the James Bond stories, and much of the humor is double entendre and innuendo": "In contrast, You Don’t Mess With the Zohan derives much of its humor by exaggerating Arab and Israeli stereotypes. For example, Israelis’ purported affinity for humus is the subject of many sight gags throughout the film. While Zohan’s sexuality is thesubject of humor in You Don’t Mess With the Zohan, the jokes play off his exuberant desire for the opposite sex. An average lay observer would not mistake Zohan’s escapades with his elderly female clients for any of Blonde’s amorous activities."

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