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Jerry Seinfeld Beats ‘Comedians in Cars’ Copyright Suit

jerry seinfeld garry shandling comedians in
Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Jerry Seinfeld has won a copyright battle against a former collaborator who claimed he had conceived the idea for “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan ruled Monday that Christian Charles’ copyright suit was barred by the statute of limitations.

Charles was the director of “Comedian,” the 2002 documentary starring Seinfeld. During that shoot, Charles filmed Seinfeld and a friend on a cross-country trip. He alleged in his suit that he later pitched Seinfeld an idea for a show in which he and a friend drive around.

The idea sat around until 2011, when Seinfeld began developing “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.” Charles worked on the project, but the two had a dispute over whether he would be paid to direct episodes on a work-for-hire basis, as Seinfeld wanted, or whether he would be given ownership and a piece of the backend, as Charles wanted. The relationship fell apart in 2012, and Charles had no further involvement in the show.

The show debuted on Sony Crackle, and later moved to Netflix. In December 2017, five years after parting ways with Seinfeld, Charles filed a copyright infringement suit. Seinfeld’s attorneys have argued that the suit was barred by the three-year statute of limitations.

Seinfeld’s attorneys have also said that Charles released any claims against Seinfeld in 2012, when he agreed to be paid $107,734.41 for his work on the show.

Nathan dismissed the suit on statute of limitations grounds.

“Because Charles was on notice that his ownership claim had been repudiated since at least 2012, his infringement claim is time-barred,” she wrote.

Seinfield’s attorney, Orin Snyder, called the ruling a “complete vindication.”

“Jerry created ‘Comedians in Cars’ and this lawsuit was nothing but a money-grab seeking to capitalize on the success of the show,” Snyder said in a statement. “We are pleased that the Court saw through the noise and dismissed the case.”