MGM & James Bond Producer Say Nothing “Premature” About 007 Copyright Suit Against Universal

To quote heavy metal rock gods Judas Priest, if Universal think they’re going to get the multi-claim copyright infringement Section 6 lawsuit from MGM and James Bond producer Danjaq easily dismissed, the plaintiffs just told them they’ve got another thing coming. “Plaintiffs have alleged past and ongoing conduct by Universal sufficient to constitute direct and secondary copyright infringement,” says the opposition filed this week to Universal’s motion to dismiss late last month the lawsuit over the proposed pic about the WWI creation of the UK’s MI6. The intelligence agency is the same one Bond works for in the Ian Fleming books and their hugely successful big screen adaptations. “Accordingly, this action is not, as Universal claims, “premature,’” the June 25th filing adds with a slap on the Comcast-owned studio’s past attempts to “to trivialize the monetary damages its infringing conduct has thus far inflicted.” And MGM and the Bond producers are more than a little peeved at the legal maneuvers Universal are using to get the matter out of the courts. “Universal’s reliance on the assertion that it did not write or contribute to the Screenplay is inconsequential,” says the filing (read it here) from Robert Schwartz, Cassandra Seto, and Brian Finkelstein of LA’s O’Melveny & Myers and Marc Becker of LA firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan.

This all started in the federal courts on April 3 when MGM and Danjaq whacked Universal for unspecified damages and an injunction against the announced Berg-written spy drama, calling it a “James Bond knockoff.” Simultaneously, in a similar but heavily redacted opposition this week to the scribe’s own motion of dismissal, MGM and Danjag claim “Berg’s central character is not an original character he created.” The opposition filing says, “it is a character who acts like James Bond, speaks like James Bond, and possesses the other unique traits of James Bond.”

With Hollywood’s license to kill lawyer Bert Fields and his Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP colleague Aaron Moss leading the charge, Universal responded to the initial complaint on April 11 in court paperwork of its own. Then they asserted that film was not even formally a go despite director Joe Cornish being brought on back in March.After more back and forth filing, Universal and Berg on May 27th both took it to the next level with motions to dismiss. They also said that the pic about the origin of UK intelligence agency was still in the very early stages of development and hence did not infringe on the Bond copyright. Universal claimed even if it did go ahead, and that was an “if,” the script and movie would “deviate significantly from its current iteration.”

In response to that, MGM and the Bond producers also just stopped short of calling Universal liars in their recent filing. “After plaintiffs filed this lawsuit, Universal admitted that it is working with co-defendant Berg to prepare a derivative work based on the infringing Screenplay,” says the 28-page opposition filing. “Universal has paid Berg over $1 million for the Screenplay and it would be contrary to industry practice, and make no sense, to pay anything close to that amount of money for a screenplay whose characters, plot, key dialogue, themes, settings, etc., the buyer intended to immediately discard.”

With all that, likely there will be some very serious bad blood flowing when all the motions are heard in front of Judge Dean D. Pregerson on July 28 in downtown L.A.

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