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Iran Verdict Rejects ‘A Hero’ Copyright Infringement Claim

Iranian authorities have rejected as “baseless” allegations that director Asghar Farhadi stole the idea for his acclaimed 2021 feature A Hero.

A former student of the two-time Oscar winner, director of A Separation and The Salesman, sued Farhadi for allegedly pilfering her premise for A Hero. Farhadi had always denied the allegations.

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On Wednesday, a group of three professors at Tehran University specializing in copyright law, along with four official art experts, rejected the claims as invalid and baseless, clearing Farhadi of all blame.

The student, Azadeh Masihzadeh, claimed Farhadi plagiarized the story for A Hero from a documentary (titled All Winners, All Losers) she made for his class. Both the documentary and Farhadi’s fiction film share the same basic story of an inmate in debtors’ prison who, while on leave, finds a bag of gold coins and struggles with the decision to keep the money or return it. Masihzadeh developed the documentary project in a workshop taught by Farhadi.

The expert panel examined both A Hero and Masihzadeh’s All Winners, All Losers and reviewed hours of footage from Farhadi’s workshop, coming to the conclusion that the events depicted in Masihzadeh’s documentary were “widely reported news in newspapers, social media, and television” and therefore fair game for Farhadi to use as the basis for his fictional film.

“The mere retelling of published news does not confer ownership rights to an individual,” the verdict reads. “Therefore, the similarities between these two films (documentary and fictional movie) stem from the common source of reality and media coverage, as well as the teachings and style of the workshop teacher (Farhadi).”

The panel also found that A Hero diverged significantly not only from the documentary, but from the actual events and news reports about the man at the center of both films. “Thus establishing that no copyright infringement has occurred.”

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