Israeli actor Dov Glickman is suing Sacha Baron Cohen, the creator of Borat for copyright infringement in using the phrase “Wa Wa Wi Wa”. the phrase was originally used by Glickman at a yellow pages commercial during the 90s, and apparently influenced Cohen, who was familiar to israel and knows hebrew, during his creation.
|The lawsuit is a complicated matter, since copyrighting an expression is problematic under the israeli law. Though several companies, including Apple which tried to block companies in using “Pod” in other machines or software and Google which blocked the use of the verb “Googling”. Unlike these two companies, though, Glickman did not have a registered trademark.|
The Israeli Court would face a difficult question of whether copyright extends to every bit of speech. Would the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sue the Simpsons for the use of “Cowabunga”? That is a difficult question when dealing with this kind of expression.
Freedom of expression may lay to risk here on one hand. On the other hand, did Glickman’s activity cause Cohen to enrich his character unjustly?
Israel’s copyright law is more permissive than the American in several manners. For example, fair use includes parody (which Cohen can claim) and Pastiche. these two are a way for Cohen to avoid paying Glickman the amount sued. (I have yet to read the full lawsuit, when i’ll get it, i’ll link).
Israel’s copyright statutes are not dealt enough in courts, at least in this form. Most of the copyright lawsuits are for lack of credit or for using a full creation. A phrase is not something which most of us will be able to get copyright. Duh!, for example, or even phrases like “Don’t have a cow” or “Chillax” are used often. Of course, once a fictional character gets a catch phrase, they are not usually used by another fictional character without using the phrase’s reputation.