Previously, most of AMC’s legal woes in regard to their zombie series have stemmed from an ongoing legal issue between themselves and a previous employer, Frank Darabont. Frank was the original showrunner for The Walking Dead and he claims AMC robbed him of millions of dollars of earnings in relation to his time at the helm of The Walking Dead. However, a new copyright lawsuit has just arisen like the undead in the aforementioned series and is threatening AMC’s other zombie show, Fear the Walking Dead.
According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Dead Ahead author Mel Smith filed suit against AMC Networks, Robert Kirkman and others associated with Fear the Walking Dead.”
The reason for this copyright lawsuit which was filed in California federal court?
Mel Smith is laying claim that Season 2 of Fear the Walking Dead closely resembles the plot for his zombie comic series and therefore infringes on his copyright.
So, what is the plot for Mel Smith’s work?
According to Atomic Avenue, the synopsis for Dead Ahead is as follows.
“What had started as a fun little fishing trip soon turns into a nightmare of damnation, trapped on a floating prison. The continents have been hit by a zombie outbreak that spread fast, turning humanity into living corpses, leaving those at sea alive to fend for themselves. With provisions running low, hope comes on the horizon in the form of a luxury liner. All they needed to survive would be on the ship, but who among the fishermen will dare to board the liner and discover what’s become of its passengers and crew?”
In Season 2 of AMC’s Fear the Walking Dead, events did occur on a luxury yacht. However, it’s the specific expression that is important in relation to an infringement of copyright, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
In the complaint filed by Mel Smith, he claims that “portions of [Season 2]’s 13 episodes were copied from plaintiff’s copyrighted literary work Dead Ahead.”
In addition, Deadline points out that Mel Smith makes a particular reference to Fear the Walking Dead‘s executive, David Alpert, who was on board during Season 2 of Fear the Walking Dead. Prior to his time on Fear the Walking Dead, he also worked with Mel Smith. In fact, Alpert was an “agent representative for the purposes of consulting with motion picture and television studios on the use or exploitation of Dead Ahead.”
So, the potential is there that Alpert used the information he knew about Dead Ahead when he stepped into the role at AMC. Smith is claiming Alpert violated his “fiduciary obligation” to Mel Smith and has put his “own interests ahead of the interests of his principal and client, [Mel Smith].”
Deadline asked AMC about the pending copyright lawsuit but they declined to comment. However, the Hollywood Reporter has stated that AMC has yet to be served and it is, therefore, “premature to comment.”
You can read the entire complaint from Mel Smith against AMC here.