The Awl used all three of its proprietary sites today to promote the story of Teddy Wayne, a novelist and freelance writer who claims the producers of CSI: NY stole the idea for an episode from a satirical article he wrote for Radar Online. (This transpired in Radar‘s earlier iteration as Maer Roshan’s buzzy magazine, not the site’s current TMZ-esque model.) The article (no longer online) told the story of “Sindergarten,” a movement among Manhattan teens to regress to early childhood with the aid of potent drugs. CSI: NY had an episode about “Wildgarten,” a movement among Manhattan teens… Crime stories are often “ripped from the headlines,” but those headlines are rarely fictional–making it apparent just whose writing, and whose original ideas, CSI: NY was ripping, or ripping off.
The story is a convoluted one that ends with Wayne lacking restitution for what he believes his intellectual property and the legal right to contest that theft. Radar, after its change of ownership, retained the rights to Wayne’s story and did not pursue legal action on its own. Though both articles mention the (fictional) drug foxy and games of Ring-Around-the-Rosie, CBS’s counsel told Wayne these were “random similarities.”
Though Wayne ends his article seeking a $20,000 charitable donation from CBS (the amount he might have garnered had he been able to pursue, and had he won, a lawsuit), he’s of good humor about his power and options as an online freelance writer. He told the Observer via email: “I considered adapting the entire story to a 60-minute dramatic television pilot featuring a team of copyright-specialist investigators based in New York, but it turned out a show already had a title similar to the acronym I was hoping to use.” Wayne said he did not expect a response from CBS, and that, in choosing the place to air his grievances, thought carefully: “The Awl felt like a place whose readers would appreciate a cautionary tale about the fragility of online intellectual property.”
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