With much of the film taking place at the window of one room, a young man is torn between possible crimes he sees and his inability to do anything about it. It doesn't take a movie wizard to notice that D.J. Caruso's feature is a whole lot like Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rear Window' -- it just has a little more camera movement and a whole lot more teen angst. But even though Steven Spielberg was sued by the rights-holder to the original short story back in 2008, a Manhattan judge has now thrown the case out.
The Hollywood Reporter posts that the literary agent who owned the rights to Cornell Woolrich's short story, "It Had to be Murder," sued Spielberg, DreamWorks, and Paramount for copyright infringement, but Judge Laura Taylor ruled that the 2007 hit is not a rip-off of the short story and Hitchcock's subsequent film. "The main plots are similar only at a high, unprotectable level of generality. Where 'Disturbia' is ride with sub-plots, the short story has none. The setting and mood of the short story are static and tense, whereas the setting and mood of 'Disturbia' are more dynamic and peppered with humor and teen romance."
To offer a bit of back story, Sheldon Abend, the man linked to this suit, is not linked to Woolrich. The author died in the late '60s before his copyright expired, and the rights passed to his executor, Chase Manhattan Bank. They sold the rights to literary agent Abend, who chose not to honor Woolrich's original agreement for a renewed copyright to be assigned to the owner of the movie rights. This led to the 1990 case Stewart v. Abend, when James Stewart was sued for showing 'Rear Window' on television.
But what do you think? Are the connections really that general? Sure, it's hard to assign one connection when the film has many. (The film does have some distinct comparisons to 'Cherish' and 'Say Anything' as well.) Is it just our own prediliction to compare and seek out similarities, or is 'Disturbia' so like 'Rear Window' that it has to be more than just an "unprotectable level of generality?"
If you'd like to compare it to the actual source material, you can listen to a reading of Woolrich's tale right here. (It will take some time. The reading has two parts, each just over 40 minutes long.) Check out the trailers for both films below, and you be the judge ...