Seinfeld wins Comedians in Cars lawsuit due to statute of limitations

U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan dismissed a lawsuit today by director Christian Charles against Jerry Seinfeld, arguing that Charles’s claims against Seinfeld over the copyright for Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee were filed too late.

“Because Charles was on notice that his ownership claim had been repudiated since at least 2012, his infringement claim is time-barred,” Nathan wrote in her decision, adding: “His joint authorship claim is also time-barred for the same reasons.”

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

Charles had directed Seinfeld in American Express commercials in the late 1990s, as well as his 2002 documentary, Comedian. Charles also directed the pilot episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, and alleged he’d pitched the original idea for the webseries while filming Comedian.

When it came time to pitch the series in 2012, Charles wanted back-end profit-sharing and also joint ownership, which Seinfeld disputed. Seinfeld did agree to pay him $107,734 for pre-production expenses. But Charles didn’t register his previous show treatment for copyright until 2016, and didn’t sue until 2017, after Netflix acquired the series from Sony Crackle.

Copyright civil cases have a three-year statute of limitations.

You can read the judge’s decision here, via Deadline.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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