In Case You Were Wondering: James Cameron Is Still Winning Cases Over Avatar
from the neverending-story dept
The legacy of the movie Avatar was supposed to be about bringing the 3D movie era back. Or perhaps it was supposed to be strictly about box office numbers. It perhaps even should have been about James Cameron’s place in the Hollywood pantheon. Too bad, then, that it’s more likely the legacy of Avatar will be about just how many people attempted to sue claiming the movie copied everything from everyone ever.
Given that this has been going on for roughly half a decade, perhaps you thought the course had been run. You’d be wrong, as it was only recently that yet another lawsuit was dismissed over claims that the movie world of Pandora was copied from the artwork of William Roger Dean.
The defendants, including Cameron, Twentieth Century Fox, and Lightstorm Entertainment, moved to dismiss Dean’s amended complaint, which a federal judge granted Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman called Dean’s attempts to show substantial similarity between the works “plainly misguided.”
“Many of the ‘Avatar images’ he includes are not from the film itself, but are taken from books about or derived from Avatar (including, for example, ‘The Making of Avatar’ and ‘The Art of Avatar),” Furman wrote. “By plaintiff’s own admission, those books are ‘not part of the claims in this case.'”
It’s an interesting strategy to sue someone for copying your work on the basis of images not from the movie you claim is infringing. Sort of like if I got mad at my brother for stealing my chicken wing and demonstrated the chicken wing’s worth by pointing to a live chicken. Or something. Look, I don’t know, but the misapplication of the works in question isn’t even the point, because what Dean is suing over is essentially the concept of floating land masses in a fictional world, which is an idea, not a specific expression. Judge Furman noted as much when commenting on Dean’s manipulation of the images in question.
Furman called several of Dean’s claims “misguided,” noting that as evidence, the artist included images from “books about or derived from Avatar” rather than the film. The judge also noted that images from the film were cropped, rotated and otherwise taken “out of context” in an attempt to make them look similar to Dean’s paintings, which were in turn also manipulated by the artist.
Here’s a nice little tip for any of you out there that might be considering filing this kind of lawsuit: if you have to twist and turn and crop and tweek every image on both sides of your copyright case, you’re essentially disproving the infringement in the first place. Probably best to just not file the lawsuit and get back to making art, yes?