Harlan Ellison Sues Again; Because No One Could Have Possibly Came Up With The Same SciFi Ideas As He Did
from the how-much-does-he-get-paid-to-piss dept
People keep telling me that I might like the books of Harlan Ellison, but I won’t go near them, since the man appears to be a total and complete wackjob when it comes to intellectual property. The guy likes to sue everyone, often without much understanding of the law. He famously sued AOL a decade or so ago, after he discovered some random people online had posted some of his content on Usenet. Yes, he sued AOL because of content he found posted on Usenet. But since he found it via AOL, somehow it must be AOL’s fault. A judge had initially determined that, as per the DMCA, AOL had no liability, but after another court ruled that AOL lost its DMCA safe harbors for being too slow, AOL decided to simply pay Ellison to drop the suit.
In a video from a few years back that has made the rounds time and time again, and which we’ve posted before, Ellison discusses how “I don’t take a piss without getting paid” and bitches about all those damn amateurs undercutting his rates by giving stuff away for free.
It ain’t about the ‘principle,’ friend, its (sic) about the MONEY! Pay Me! Am I doing this for other writers, for Mom (still dead), and apple pie? Hell no! I’m doing it for the 35-year-long disrespect and the money!
So it’s not surprising that he’s suing again. This time, he’s suing 20th Century Fox and trying to stop the release of a new sci-fi movie, In Time, which he claims is a pure copy of one of his most famous works, “Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman” Of course, as we’ve discussed plenty of times, copyright is only supposed to cover specific expressions, and not ideas… and the “similarities” he lists certainly sound like ideas, not expressions:
Both works are said to take place in a “dystopian corporate future in which everyone is allotted a specific amount of time to live.” In both works, government authorities known as a “Timekeeper” track the precise amount of time each citizen has left.
The complaint goes on to list similarities in the features of the universe as well as the plot surfaces — the manipulation of time an individual can live, the type of death experienced by those whose time runs out, rebellion by story protagonists, and so forth.
Of course, as Julian Sanchez points out, there are lots of sci-fi stories that have a very similar storyline (perhaps even more similar), including Logan’s Run and The Quantum Thief. Maybe Ellison will sue over those too.
Unfortunately, these days, courts have really blurred the line between what’s an expression and what’s an idea, so perhaps something comes of this. But, once again, this really is just about money… and competition. It turns out that Ellison recently sold the rights to “Repent Harlequin” and another movie is being made. So, Ellison would like to censor this competition. But, really, it’s pretty ridiculous for Ellison to think that no one else could have possibly come up with similar ideas on their own. And even if they were built off that bit of an idea from his work, is it really such a problem that people created a different version of it? Does Ellison really believe that none of his work was built off ideas influenced by others?
I jumped over to Ellison’s website to see if he’d put up any more colorful statements about the lawsuit (not that he’d want me to use them without paying him), but instead I find a splash page that just says:
“Why do people keep insisting that I join the 21st Century? I *LIVE* in the 21st Century! I just don’t want to be bothered by the shitheads on the internet!”
Seems like such a sweet guy.