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Federal jury ‘Jingles’ Fox for $19 mil in Santa suit

Co. plans to fight 'unjust verdict'

A federal jury hit 20th Century Fox Studios with $19 million in damages Tuesday in a copyright infringement case involving its film “Jingle All the Way.”

Murray Hill Publications, a Detroit production house, charged that Fox stole the script, originally titled “Could This Be Christmas,” after Murray Hill pitched it to the studio in mid-1994. Soon after the screenplay was rejected, Fox purchased the rights to “Jingle All the Way,” which ultimately became a vehicle for Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad.

The “Jingle All the Way” screenplay allegedly was written by Ed McQueen, the nom de plume of Randy Kornfeld, an inhouse script reader for Fox. At the six-week trial in Ann Arbor, Mich., Fox maintained the similarities between the Murray Hill script and the McQueen script were coincidental.

Robert G. Laurel, producer and president of Murray Hill, said he first met with Tom Rothman in 1993 while latter was still at the Samuel Goldwyn Co. before taking his current position as head of production at Fox. Rothman turned down the project. In the next year, Laurel pitched it to Fox twice and was turned down. In 1996, Laurel saw an article in Daily Variety about Fox’s “Jingle All the Way” project and thereafter filed suit.

“This has taken six years of my life,” Laurel said. “For an independent producer to take on a studio is like suing the tobacco companies. All Fox had to do was work out a co-production deal.”

Responding to the verdict, Fox spokeswoman Flo Grace said, “Fox copied nothing, infringed nothing and in no way violated any of the plaintiff’s rights, and we will take immediate steps to set aside this unjust verdict.”

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