While Avatar may have made movie-goers globally swoon for a world blue, a parade of claimants have pursued director James Cameron for reasons green — seeking to claim a share of the box-office smash’s billions in gross. The latest nyet, however, for someone seeking some of that Na’vi cash came on Jan. 17, when a federal court in Maryland ruled in Cameron’s favor in a copyright infringement suit. In that action, Bryant Moore asserted that Cameron created Avatar by copying his screenplays.
If you have been following the stream of lawsuits filed against Cameron over Avatar, Moore was yet another plaintiff contesting the originality of Cameron’s gilt-producing film. Gerald Morawski’s claim was kicked out on summary judgment last February and Eric Ryder’s claim was dismissed last October. No ultimate decision was made in a Vancouver man’s claim against Cameron in 2012. Kelly Van’s claim was dismissed on summary judgment in September, 2011. A Chinese writer’s claim was dismissed in Beijing in March, 2010.
Moore asserted that Cameron got a hold of his screenplays through his True Lies film production assistant, through a Fox Broadcasting employee, and/or through a development executive at Cameron’s production company, Lightstorm; he said they all had copies of his screenplays. Further, Moore claimed that Avatar has substantial similarity to his screenplays, Pollination and Aquatica: “upside down trees with plants growing out of them,” a love affair set in a sci-fi futuristic setting, and main characters transforming from scientists into warriors. However, the district judge rejected Moore’s claims as simple commonalities.
First, the judge said that the plots in Cameron’s Avatar and Moore’s Pollination and Aquatica were plainly different, “even at the highest level of generality.” Avatar was about a paraplegic ex-Marine who takes over a genetically engineered avatar body to study the indigenous people of a planet, Pandora, whereas, Moore’s screenplays were about two groups at war with one another. Pollination was about two human groups, the pollinators and the descendants, at war with each other and “Aquatica [was] an underwater adventure story about two warring factions, one of whom is a ruthless evil tribe attempting to dominate the planet.”
Second, the judge found that Cameron, who has termed the work his most personal, had independently created Avatar as evidenced from his past projects, including: his high school drawing of a tree that inspired the “hometree” in Avatar; the college story he wrote about “transitioning from a disabled body,” which set the inspiration for Avatar’s main character; and Cameron’s film, Xenogenesis, which inspired a similar setting to Avatar’s with the willow trees, bio luminescence and more.
In a statement, the director expressed satisfaction and appreciation that courts continue to uphold him and his work against what he decried as a “cottage industry” of “fortune hunting” claimants.
Maybe it’s time for Cameron to find his own real-life Jake Sully and some furious Na’vi to ride out against his legal scourges: