Litigants seeking to cash in on the global popularity of James Cameron’s uber-blockbuster are now 0-for-4 in the past year. A New York judge today threw out a copyright-infringement suit by artist Roger Dean — who has created album covers for the likes of Yes, Asia and Uriah Heep — that claimed his fantasy artwork inspired Avatar. “The similarities of each such work are substantial, continuing, and direct so as to rule out any accidental copying or similarity in scenes common to the genre,” the $50 million suit alleged. Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York disagreed and dismissed the suit, which named Cameron, 20th Century Fox and Lightstorm Entertainment as defendants. Dean claimed the look of the 2009 film was derived from his images of floating mountains and the like, but the court found no substantial similarity (read his opinion here).
Three other Avatar-related suits also have bitten the dust in the past 11 months. Eric Ryder, who claimed that Cameron had used his ideas in the film, saw his case get the boot in October. Ryder later tried to get the judge removed, but that effort also failed. Then in January, Cameron won a $2.5 billion case brought by sci-fi writer Bryant Moore, who accused the filmmaker of infringing on his copyright. And a Canada-based lawsuit by writer and restaurateur Emil Malak, who alleged that the highest-grossing film of all time copied elements of his script Terra Incognita, was thrown out in March.
Going back a little further, a suit was Gerald Morawski was jettisoned in February 2013. That plaintiff claimed that he had pitched Cameron on an environmental-themed concept called Guardians of Eden back in 1991. And in September 2012, screenwriter Elijah Schkeiban lost a copyright infringement suit that alleged Cameron mined his unmade film and novel Bats And Butterflies for Avatar.