Addis Fortune (Addis Ababa)

24 August 2014

Ethiopia: Author Sues Renowned Film Maker Over Storyline Theft

Tewodros Teshome, a renowned film maker and manager of Sebastopol Entertainment Plc, is sued for breach of copyright by Atenkut Mulugeta, author of the book Fiker Sibekel.

The plaintiff filed his statement of claim to the Federal High Court on Tuesday, August 19, 2014, claiming Tewodros took the entire concept of his book and released a movie called Sost Meazen. The suit demands that Tewodros pay him 10 million Br in compensation for the economic and moral damage he suffered from the infringement.

Tewodros came into the film business as writer, director and producer of Gilbit Alem, which he followed up with Kezkaza Wolafen. This came after he had established Sebastopol Entertainment Plc, his film company. He has made nine films in total, including the contentious Sost Meazen, as well as Fiqer Siferd (2005), one of his more popular films, and Key Sihtet (2006) - a film about the Red Terror.

The entire storyline of the film and scenes in Sost Meazen are copied from Fiker Sibekel, which was published five years ago, alleges the suit.

Fiker Sibekel was published in 2006, with 3,000 copies printed by the Artistic Printing Press; Sost Meazen followed in June 2013.

The statement of claim reads that the author, director and producer of the film stole the entire concept of the book without the knowledge and permission of the author. It also claims that the defendant obtained over 20 million Br from the movie, which was screened locally and in Europe and the United States.

Both the film and the book narrate the challenges faced by a couple during their migration out of Ethiopia to Italy through Libya. The couple make this decision because of the woman's parents interference in their relationship; they wanted her to marry another person, who is rich.

As evidence for the similarities between the two works, the statement of claim listed 15 points, including scenes in the movie located in Ethiopian towns as the book, as well as the passage through Libya to Italy. Other points included the similarity of the couple, their families and the friend who migrates with the couple in both the film and the book.

The book was under preparation for a reprint, according to the plaintiff, but that decision was dropped because of fears that readers would not be interested having already seen the film. The plaintiff took the case to court because attempts to resolve the issue through negotiations with Tewodros had failed, Atenkut claimed.

The plaintiff requested the court to order the defendant to pay 10 million Br, which is half the money he claims the film made, as well as legal expenses for moral and economic damages.

The hearing will take place in October, when the judges return after summer recession.

Tewodros came into the film business with Teddy Studio in 1996 - reestablished in 2005 as Sebastopol Entertainment Plc - with four million Br in capital. The Company operates Sebastopol Cinema at the Addis Abeba Exhibition Centre, which has two theatres, Kuara and Mekdela, in remembrance of King Tewodros I.

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