UPDATE, 11:05 AM: James Cameron has issued a statement through Fox about last week’s Bryant Moore ruling: “Sadly, a cottage industry has arisen of fortune hunting plaintiffs seeking to ‘strike it rich’ by claiming their ideas were the basis for Avatar. As I have previously stated, Avatar was my most personal film, drawing upon themes and concepts that I had been exploring for decades. Our film was also the product of a team of some of the world’s most creative artists and designers, and it is an insult to all of them when these specious claims are made. I am grateful that Judge Titus and the other jurists who have dealt with these cases have recognized the complete lack of merit of these offensive lawsuits.”
PREVIOUS, MONDAY AM: It took over two years but the highest-grossing movie of all time, James Cameron and Fox are finally free of yet another Avatar lawsuit. “In conclusion, the story of Jake Sully and his exploits are the original work of the Defendants and the Plaintiff has failed to demonstrate any valid claim of a violation of his copyrights,” a federal District judge in Maryland wrote late last week of sci-fi writer Bryant Moore’s $2.5 billion lawsuit (read it here). The Memorandum Opinion and a following Order by Judge Roger Titus effectively ends the case with a summary judgment and other orders in Cameron and Fox’s favor. Moore will also have to pay all legal costs in the case.
Moore first went after Cameron, his Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation on December 19, 2011. The writer claimed copies of his Aquatica and Descendants: The Pollination screenplays had made their way to Cameron in 1993 and 1994 through Lightstorm production assistants. Moore was seeking $1.5 billion in profits and another $1 billion in punitive damages. Though Moore says he was eventually told the company did not accept the submissions, he found “striking substantial similarities” between his scripts and 2009’s Avatar. Cameron has said in past court filings that he had Avatar mapped out in a detailed scriptment before any such materials by Moore were ever submitted to Lightstorm. “Suffice it to say that Defendants present a strong case for independent creation that rebuts a presumption of copying,” wrote Titus in his 23-page Memorandum Opinion. While acknowledging “certain limited commonalities” between the story in the multibillion-dollar box office pic and Moore’s work, the judge added, “Cameron submitted a comprehensive declaration that specifically addresses Moore’s allegations and points to past projects and other sources of inspiration from which he drew in writing Avatar.”
This marks a year of Avatar copyright victories for Cameron. Last February, the director won a case against Gerald Morawski, who accused Cameron of ripping off his ideas for the pic. In early October 2013, Cameron saw LA Superior Court Judge Susan Bryant-Deason dismissed Eric Ryder’s claims that his ideas were used in the 2009 blockbuster. Ryder’s later attempt to have the judge dismissed also failed. Still Cameron and Fox still have the $50 million lawsuit that artist William Roger Dean filed in June 2013 to face. Known for his album cover work for bands like Asia and Yes, Dean is claiming the look of the movie was derived from his images.