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Twentieth Century Fox did not steal a high school teacher’s script for what became the 1996 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Jingle All the Way,” a federal appeals court ruled Friday, reversing a $19 million judgment against the studio. The three-judge panel rejected a jury’s 2001 ruling that Fox had used ideas from Brian Webster’s script in the making of “Jingle All the Way,” a film about the last-minute search by two fathers — Schwarzenegger and the comedian Sinbad — for a much-in-demand Christmas toy. The jury ordered Fox to pay a $15 million award and $4 million in legal costs to Murray Hill Publications Inc., a small, independent publishing company that owned the rights to a copyrighted screenplay by Webster, a biology teacher in Detroit. The federal judge who heard the case reduced the award later to $1.5 million. Murray Hill sued Fox shortly after “Jingle All the Way” was released in November 1996, claiming the movie infringed on its copyright to Webster’s screenplay, “Could This Be Christmas.” During the trial, Murray Hill cited an expert-prepared list of 24 similarities between the two scripts. The appeals court ruled, however, that all but six “minor” similarities already existed in a six-page summary of the proposed “Jingle” screenplay written by Randy Kornfield, an in-house script-reader for Fox. The appeals court concluded that Webster and Kornfield created their work independently. J. Michael Huget, a lawyer for Fox, said Friday’s ruling by the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ends the case, but Mayer Morganroth, a lawyer for Murray Hill, said he would ask for a rehearing. No telephone listing for Webster or Murray Hill could be found in the Detroit area. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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