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Yet Another Person Sues, Claiming James Cameron Copied The Idea For Avatar

from the and-on-and-on-and-on dept

People really have an incredible ability to assume that only they could possibly have a very common idea. Lots of people have pointed out that James Cameron's Avatar seems similar to all sorts of stories. In fact, the site io9 put together a giant list of books and movies that some claimed were copied by Cameron. And, of course, we've already mentioned two separate lawsuits. Well, now we can add a third one to the list, and it has just as much a chance to succeed as the others. In this case, it's made even more ridiculous by the fact that the book in question was written after Cameron was already working on Avatar.

In most of the cases with these types of lawsuits, it seems like those suing are really just filing what they likely know is a bogus lawsuit to get publicity for their book/movie/etc. (which is why we're not naming the book in this case). But, it does highlight an important point that we've discussed plenty of times in the past: lots of people have ideas that are similar. Ideas, by themselves, are neither unique nor protectable. It's the execution or (within the copyright realm) the expression that is unique. Yet, too many people overvalue the idea and assume that only they could possibly have had it. The idea behind the story of Avatar is pretty simplistic and common, really. It's been done plenty of times before. The reason the movie is getting so much attention is because of the execution.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Mike Philbin, May 21st, 2010 @ 6:26am

    The reason the movie is getting so much attention is because of the execution.

    the STUNNING execution

    :)

     

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  2.  
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    DannyB (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 6:35am

    I had a movie idea that has been infringed upon

    Plot: Characters meet, fall in love, circumstances threaten to keep them apart, they overcome and live happily ever after.

    Quite a few movies have brazenly stolen my unique and original idea! I should sue. I could make billions.

     

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  3.  
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    Richard (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 6:49am

    Yes - but

    I'm just wishing he'd used that stunning execution on a better story - like the Forever War....

     

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  4.  
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    John Doe, May 21st, 2010 @ 6:56am

    Romeo & Juliet, Dances with Wolves, etc

    The story line is similar to many other stories, but like you said, it is the execution that makes it different.

     

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    cc (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 7:22am

    Cameron obviously copied the Smurfs! I see another lawsuit coming along.

     

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  6.  
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    Stuart, May 21st, 2010 @ 7:43am

    Re:

    No. It's a hybrid. Dances with Smurfs.

     

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  7.  
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    interval, May 21st, 2010 @ 7:54am

    Its "Ferngully" I tell you, a crappy 10 year old animated POS. Same exact story.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 21st, 2010 @ 7:54am

    "Man on the Street" reports peg the cost for producing Avatar at $500M. Whatever the amount, it was money well spent.

    I was fortunate to be given a RtB. CVS had a release-day special. Buy $25 of merchandise and get the movie for $5. I needed the merchandise anyway, so the movie was a bargain I could not pass up.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 8:08am

    Question...

    "Ideas, by themselves, are neither unique nor protectable. It's the execution or (within the copyright realm) the expression that is unique."

    Is the reverse still true? What if the execution and/or expression is fairly similar, but the ideas are different? I've noticed that in my writing I tend to take on the tone, pace progression, and even some (very) vaguely similar actions and settings to whatever fiction I happen to be reading at the time I'm writing, but the plot/idea/theme is ENTIRELY different. I've worried that if the similarity is too close, that might mean trouble down the road.

    What's the ruling on something like that?

     

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  10.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 8:46am

    Re: Re:

    No, no, it's Pocahontas + Smurfs.

    The funny thing about this is that people couldn't even agree about which movies Cameron was ripping off, there are so many with the same theme.

     

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    P3T3R5ON (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 10:27am

    JinX

    Growing up I remember playing a game called jinx, not a complicated game, don't have to set aside time to play or need any equipment to do it. You just have to be quick. Whenever you or somebody else said the same thing at the same time the first person to yell "jinx" had the power to silence the other person.. or whatever else you want to do... owe you a coke, whatever.

    So why are people calling jinx on James Cameraon for Avatar?

    It is entirely possible for two people to have similar ideas!!! Even when it comes to the complexities of a movie, book, song, whatever. Not identical... but similar.

    So how does patent/copyright law even begin to define if one person owns the rights to an idea over another person? This is getting rediculous.

     

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  12.  
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    Bruce Partington, May 21st, 2010 @ 12:53pm

    Why? He's done it before

    He was successfully sued by the world's oldest enfant terrible, Harlan Ellison, for stealing from two Outer Limits episodes Ellison had written to create Terminator. He'd have got away with it too, except he admitted it in an interview with Cinefantastique magazine (which admission he tried to have removed).

    To be sure, this doesn't indicate that accusations about Avatar are necessarily true (or for that matter untrue), and it's a certainty that some of them are mere attempts at legal extortion because he has large pockets and a high profile, but it's not as though he doesn't have a track record of appropriation of others' work.

     

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    Dan (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 2:11pm

    I figured out the plot progression and the outcome...

    of Avatar 5 minutes into the show. If that's not an obviousness test, I don't know what is.

     

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    Andrew F (profile), May 21st, 2010 @ 4:05pm

    Re: Question...

    Like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? Or William Shatner's rendition of the Rocket Man?

    Answer probably lies somewhere in how the law treats derivative works and transformative uses.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, May 22nd, 2010 @ 1:02pm

    Why would anyone admit to writing the crappy story for Avatar?

     

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  16.  
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    MovieFan, May 22nd, 2010 @ 4:14pm

    Published in 2003 to the Internet...

    I have had a copy of the original treatment to Avatar since 2001. A full 2 years before this writers book was ever published to the internet. Cameron actually started writing the concept for Avatar as earlier as 1995 just around the time he shot the opening footage of Titanic. Its always funny how all these people come out of the wood work to say an individual stole their idea. Its pure ignorance if you think you're the only one on the planet of 6 billion people to come up with this amazing idea.

    If Avatar would have tanked no "author" on the planet would care. Its only because it made a crap load of money.

    This story of this woman is just ridiculous.

     

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  17.  
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    Wesley Parish, May 23rd, 2010 @ 5:26am

    Yet Another Book ( or so ) to add to the list

    "Symme's Hole" by Ian Wedde. An English sealer ( or whaler ) goes native, intermarries with the locals, and becomes a sort of a connecting piece between the locals and the intruding British Empire and subjects thereof. I actually met one of his descendents way back in 1988.

     

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  18.  
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    danobuzz, May 23rd, 2010 @ 7:03pm

    So then did "Battle for Terra" rip off Avatar?! lol

     

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    scootah (profile), May 23rd, 2010 @ 8:55pm

    Am I the only person more annoyed about the claims that the Navi are based on Native Americans than the idea that Cameron might have ripped someone off?

    The story of the Navi, being screwed by (almost entirely caucasian) mining groups, and the Navi culture seems to be almost entirely derived from African history rather than North American.

    And cue the claims that Cameron ripped off 'Blood Diamond' and 'The Power of One'.

     

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  20.  
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    Wesley Parish (profile), May 24th, 2010 @ 1:39am

    Re:

    I suspect that he referenced the Great Sioux War in 1876-77 against the Sioux in relation to the gold in the Black Hills, rather than the wars in the 1600s and 1700s against the East Coast First Nations, which were for land, impure and unsimple, rather than mineral resources. And yes, there and then there were people of mixed European and Sioux ancestry who ended up going wholeheartedly for their Sioux families.

    Which doesn't deny the probability that he also referenced the African Land Grab of the 1880s; or for that matter, the hideously undemocratic and underhanded way the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Dept of Energy plotted against the Navaho and Hopi for the mineral wealth beneath their reservations.

    Injustice is not confined to any one period in history ... sadly ...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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