NEW YORK (AP) — An author's irreverent stage tribute to the 1991 Patrick Swayze and Keanu Reeves action movie "Point Break" is entitled to copyright protection even though she did not seek permission from the filmmakers to create the parody, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals concluded that the unauthorized creation by Jaime Keeling entitled "Point Break Live!" qualifies for copyright protection because it adds sufficient originality to the movie it's based upon.
"Without any possibility of copyright protection against infringement for her original fair-use parody, playwrights like Keeling might be dissuaded from creating at all," Circuit Judge Jose A. Cabranes wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel.
The panel noted that Keeling's production parallels the characters and plot elements of the movie and relies almost exclusively on selected dialogue from the screenplay about a rookie FBI agent played by Reeves who goes undercover to infiltrate a gang of bank-robbing surfers led by Swayze's character.
"To this raw material, Keeling added jokes, props, exaggerated staging, and humorous theatrical devices to transform the dramatic plot and dialogue of the film into an irreverent, interactive theatrical experience," the 2nd Circuit said.
"I'm thrilled," Keeling said Friday in a telephone interview as she prepared a cast of 11 actors, mostly comedians, for an evening Manhattan performance in a 400-seat theater.
Keeling originally went to court for an order to stop a 4-year-old stage production by Eve Hars, who stopped paying Keeling for the parody after learning she had not gotten permission from the movie's creators. Keeling won that round but Hars appealed.
Hars' lawyers haven't responded to a message seeking comment.
Keeling said Friday she developed the show after becoming obsessed with it during a trip home to Hot Springs, Arkansas, while studying philosophy at St. John's College in Annapolis, Maryland.
Her housemates soon joined her in performing funny bits related to the movie at parties before she developed a show she launched in Seattle.
Now, Keeling said, separate casts on each coast perform weekly shows in Los Angeles, monthly in San Francisco and sporadic shows in Washington, Boston, Philadelphia, San Diego, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and elsewhere.
Keeling, of Brooklyn, has since quit her day job.
"I think there is a massive fan base for this movie. I wasn't the only one who thought about this movie a lot," she said. "The highest compliment we get is people saying: 'Oh my God, I never saw the movie but we love the show!'"
The appeals court ruling also upholds a $250,000 award by a jury that watched clips of the movie and Keeling's show in December 2012 to determine if her content was original. The jury found she was entitled to copyright her creation.
In a statement, attorney Steven Paradise of Vinson & Elkins, which took up the case without charge, called the ruling "a win not only for Ms. Keeling, but for all other artists who create original parodies that are a fair use of an existing work."