Cartoonist Who Claimed 'Kung Fu Panda' Ripped Off His Work Might Be Headed To Prison

from the from-plaintiff-to-defendant-(and-civil-to-criminal) dept

So, you've sued a major studio for copyright infringement and lost. How bad could it be? Here are the possible outcomes, rated from least to most painful.

4. Dismissed without prejudice. (A glimmer of hope. You can refile.)

3. Dismissed with prejudice. (You're done.)

2. Dismissed with prejudice and fees awarded to the defendant. (If you thought paying one lawyer was expensive…)

1. You're prosecuted for wire fraud and perjury and face fines of $500,000 and 25 years in prison.
Jayme Gordon, the other person to sue Dreamworks for allegedly copying his work has won the Worst Outcome Ever sweepstakes. The cartoonist claimed Dreamworks ripped off his sketches and he seemingly had the evidence to prove this -- including a rarity in many of these little-guy-sues-big-studio lawsuits: actual registered works.

Gordon demanded $12 million and a cut of the proceeds. He survived a motion to dismiss and seemed ready to take a serious run at the studio. Two years after he filed the lawsuit, Gordon suddenly dismissed it with prejudice and received no settlement for doing so.

Apparently, while Gordon was litigiously complaining about someone ripping him off, he had been ripping off another major player in the animation industry: Disney. The drawings he submitted to the copyright registration office in 2000 (that Gordon claimed to have created in 1992) looked very similar to some found in a Disney coloring book published in 1996.


A deeper investigation into Gordon's actions uncovered even more dubious behavior. Brian Gabriel at Cartoon Brew has more details.
According to the indictment, Gordon saw a trailer for Kung Fu Panda in early 2008. Gordon then revised his Panda Power drawings and registered them as Kung Fu Panda Power with the Copyright Office in May 2008, prior to the June 2008 release of DreamWorks’ animated feature.
In addition, Gordon apparently deleted possibly incriminating evidence from his personal computer to better obscure the origin of his "original" illustrations.
During discovery related to the lawsuit, DreamWorks’ attorneys unearthed evidence that on April 10, 2012 Gordon had deliberately erased computer files holding material related to the lawsuit. In fact, Gordon installed and used a program called Permanent Eraser to remove the files, and then deleted Permanent Eraser itself on April 13, 2012.
So, how do bogus copyright claims rise to the level of wire fraud? Well, in the same way that almost any false communication can be considered wire fraud if the government feels like pursuing it.
The Cybercrime Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston will now prosecute Gordon, alleging that, when his attorneys sent four emails on his behalf related to the lawsuit, including requests for discovery and a settlement proposal, Gordon “did knowingly transmit…by means of wire communication in interstate commerce, writings…for the purpose of executing” his fraudulent scheme, and that by knowingly lying under oath he committed perjury.
If only Gordon had hand-delivered those communications…

That's the bogus part of this prosecution. Sure, perjury is a given, considering the evidence uncovered by Dreamworks' lawyers. But wire fraud? That's just charge stacking. This office, however, isn't exactly shy about trumping up charges to make itself seem more impressive. It's the same US Attorney's Office that was behind the investigation and prosecution of Aaron Swartz, so this could go very, very badly for Gordon.

Gordon's case does show there's an absolute rock bottom to bogus copyright infringement lawsuits. Most suits never involve anything more than people mistakenly thinking IP laws protect ideas rather than expressions, or that similar ideas/expressions must be infringing because it's not possible for more than one person to think of the same thing. Both are the result of people overestimating their originality and grasp of copyright law.

Gordon's case looks like someone attempting to knock bags off a passing money train. Many have made similar efforts, but Gordon has surpassed them all in terms of complete, abject failure.

Filed Under: copyright, fraud, jayme gordon, kung fu panda, lawsuits
Companies: disney


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  • identicon
    Pixelation, 8 Jan 2016 @ 8:35am

    Apparently Dreamworks' Kung Fu is stronger than Gordon's.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 8:47am

    It seems that Gordon is exceedingly bad at coloring so add that to the list of failures. The thing is still black and white!

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

  • icon
    Berenerd (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 8:54am

    Who gets the movie rights?

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

  • icon
    Max (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 8:57am

    I'm a bit puzzled - once you shred something with a proper wiping tool such as mentioned, how exactly do you prove WHAT was there before? It can't be illegal to just install / uninstall a wiping tool, can it?!?

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

    • identicon
      rikuo, 8 Jan 2016 @ 9:27am

      Re:

      If I'm not mistaken, those programs look for where the files in question are stored, delete the file and then overwrite the areas where those files are stored with random 1s and 0s. However, there are still ways to recover the data even then, which is why you have to do a number of 'passes' that is, delete, overwrite, delete, overwrite again and again a number of times.
      I'm going to guess that he only did one pass with the program.

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 9:44am

      Re:

      Depends on the tool and how it's used. It's often possble to recover the file at least partially unless you physically destroy the drive. Plus, some programs have weaker test settings he could have accidentally used if he wasn't technically proficient, and many people recommend using more than one method. On top of that, if he stored files in a way that makes it obvious what was in there, the court may not need the actual file to prove he was defrauding them.

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

  • identicon
    Matt, 8 Jan 2016 @ 9:12am

    Read that as beheaded

    Read the article wondering why the cartoonist was going to be beheaded in a US prison. Very confused.

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

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 8 Jan 2016 @ 11:04am

    Happens all the time

    If a movie is successful (I won't say profitable since no Hollywood movie has ever made a profit), there will always be someone appearing to sue claiming the studio stole their "idea" or "story" or whatever. But this reminds me of the "Real Muggles" lawsuit where some American author sued Warner Bros. over the term "muggles" and Harry Potter. Then got in trouble for altering some of her work she submitted as evidence.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2016 @ 3:10pm

    I agree with punishing this guy for trying to bamboozle the court.

    Now we just need to have punishments (read: mandatory jail time) for corporations and patent lawyers that try to bamboozle the justice system.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jan 2016 @ 9:01pm

    Money Train

    > Gordon's case looks like someone attempting to knock bags off a passing money train.

    You mean by the US District Attorney?

    Were I on a jury where such charge stacking took place, I would more likely than not refuse to convict due to the stacking alone.

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

  • icon
    klaus (profile), 14 Jan 2016 @ 2:14am

    Hubris and ignorance

    Demanding 12 million + a percentage, from Dreamworks, for something that looks nothing like a Panda, and which by all accounts he cribbed from Disney.

    He mustn't have known that Dreamworks are tight with Disney.

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


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