Motion to Dismiss Denied in a Copyright Infringement Case Over “Anastasia” Musical

A New York judge has denied a motion to dismiss a copyright infringement suit against a new Broadway musical adapted from the 1997 animated film “Anastasia.”

The heirs of playwright Marcelle Maurette sued playwright Terrence McNally in December over the planned musical, alleging that the show is plagiarized from Laurette’s 1952 play titled “Anastasia.” Maurette’s play, the 1997 film, and the Broadway show are each based upon the same historical story of Anastasia Romanov, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II.

The defendants have argued that, while the musical may be based on the same story, it is a work independent of the 1952 play. In a statement regarding the lawsuit, the producers of the musical claimed differences in the plot, characters, and settings compared to Maurette’s play, as well as original songs. The defendants moved to dismiss the suit, claiming that the only similarities between the two works are historical facts, and hence not protected under copyright law.

In denying the motion, Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein noted that the defendants’ motion would require him to make a “complicated comparison” between the allegedly historical facts stated in the motion and the two works, indicating that the defendants’ fact-heavy argument was not appropriate at such early stages of litigation. He further emphasized that taking judicial notice of the allegedly historical facts would be “an inappropriate exercise”.

Though litigation will continue, “Anastasia” is set to premiere on Broadway in April 2017.

de Becdelievre v. McNally et al, case number 1:16-cv-09471 (N.Y.S.D.)

Bill Donahue, “‘Anastasia’ Broadway Musical Can’t Dodge Copyright Suit,” Law360 (January 25, 2017),

Robert Viagas, Adam Hetrick, “Judge Denies Motion to Dismiss Anastasia Plagiarism Suit,” Playbill (January 25, 2017),