Published: August 8, 2000
‘The Patriot’ steps on Don Troiani’s Toes
SOUTHBURY, CONN. – Don Troiani, a military historian and world-renowned artist, is suing Sony Pictures, producer of The Patriot, claiming copyright infringement involving Troiani’s costume designs.
Last year Sony Pictures approached Troiani stating they were interested in having research conducted to determine period authentic uniforms for cast members and for Mel Gibson, the star of The Patriot. Communications between the two parties ceased after Troiani voiced his desire to be given recognition for his work with a screen credit and stated that research would not continue without this assurance. It was at this point Sony stopped discussing the movie and he did not hear from them further.
Before the movie was released Troiani viewed the motion picture’s Web site where he found almost exact copies of his costume designs, a color change being the only difference.
“You could overlay my original artwork on the image and it would match exactly. I was astonished at what I was seeing so I filed a lawsuit in Federal Court requesting a jury trial where the criteria for infringement states if the images look the same to the ‘casual viewer’ there is a violation of a copyright,” Troiani states. “I can’t wait to get this in front of a jury.”
One point of the lawsuit states, “Using [the] Plaintiff’s artwork, [the] defendants made the focal point of the movie the uniforms as they served to authenticate the period referenced and to distinguish the American Freedom Fighters from the British government forces.”
Sadly, court and lawsuits are not new to Troiani; he has needed to defend his copyrights several times already and most defendants have settled before going to court. He discovers five or six infringements a year and believes there are many others he does not know about. “I have better things to do than chase infringement cases,” he adds.
The source of the infringed images is from Don Troiani’s book, Soldiers in America, 1754-1856, which contained a print of the minuteman uniform which Troiani claims is the very template of Mel Gibson’s uniform in The Patriot. The book was started in 1990 and was published in 1998. Sony had been given copies of the book for review and it is believed the infringed images came out of the same book.
Troiani studied at Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and New York City’s Art Students League. He went on to produce paintings for the American Park Service and American Heritage Magazine.
Troiani’s work is in the collections of The Smithsonian’s Museum of History and Technology, Smithsonian Magazine, The US Marine Corps Museum, the Pentagon, and the National Civil War Museum, to name a few. His work has been called “the finest treatment of the American Civil War ever put to canvas” (Stephen W. Sylvia). He has been called “a historian who conveys his research on canvas instead of in words” (A. Wilson Greene).
Art work and collecting were always his main interests and Troiani was intrigued by what period costumes really looked like.
“Hollywood’s image of things is very influential and mostly incorrect. The producer’s version is how he wants to see them and not based entirely on fact,” he stated. Troiani uses his Internet contacts, individuals who specialize in many areas, to add to his broad knowledge base and is in constant contact with them. Many hours have been spent in trying to pin down every possible detail of militia costumes.
William H. Guthman, the author of March to Massacre, has written, “I think Don Troiani is the most historically accurate military artist working today. His intimate knowledge of uniforms and weapons makes it impossible for any other living artist to equal the accuracy of his scenes.”
Troiani collects original uniforms, hats, ammunition cases, canteens, belts, flags, buckles, shoes and every conceivable piece of equipment available, and has them re-created by master artists and clothing manufacturers using correct cloth, stitching and techniques. Troiani has a large collection of these rdf_Descriptions and can re-create history right out of his own closet. These costumes are used as working uniforms, donned by models photographed in situ for his paintings.
Troiani says he realizes the reason he is sought after to consult in historical matters is for his extensive knowledge, and to have it undermined in this matter speaks volumes of copyright infringement in general and the movie industry specifically.
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