James Cameron has been embroiled in a handful of creative property lawsuits over Avatar, the 2009 science fiction movie that made all the money ever. Fortunately for team-Titanic, one of the bigger lawsuits against Cameron was thrown out yesterday, as a judge ruled that specific plot points alleged as stolen by the complainant cannot be copyrighted.
According to The Wrap, novelist and screenwriter Elijah Schkeiban wanted a share of Avatar‘s $2.7 billion jackpot and claimed that Cameron had lifted key plot points from his own screenplay “Bats and Butterflies” for the sci-fi mega-earner. Cameron’s lawyers successfully argued that plot elements like the “weak hero” and a plot twist in which “the bad guys attack the good guys” cannot be copyrighted, and a judge agreed.
US district court Judge Manuel Real said Schkeiban’s screenplay was “not substantially similar” to Avatar, and tossed out the suit. Adding insult to injury, Judge Real stated that Schkeiban’s screenplay was “a straightforward children’s story that lacks the depth and complexity of the moods expressed in Avatar.”
I don’t know if I’d call Avatar complex, but what do I know. The movie made all the money.
According to the Guardian, Schkeiban argued that Avatar’s wheelchair-bound protagonist Jake Sully was similar to his own protagonist, a small boy, because both were “weak” heroes. “Even at this basic level of idea, the characters differ,” Cameron’s lawyers argued. “Being seen as weak is not protectable expression,” also adding of the similar “twist” in both plots, “Bad guys attacking good guys is not copyrightable.”
Schkeiban also said that Cameron ripped off Pandora’s flora from his own screenplay. “The Na’vi can also experience their ancestors through a connection with sacred trees,” Cameron’s lawyers responded. “In contrast, the plants in Bats and Butterflies are just window-dressing.”
The Schkeiban lawsuit is one of many against James Cameron’s Avatar. Thus far, none of the complainants have succeeded in their claims.