‘Stranger Things’ Plagiarism Case Heads To Trial

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As Netflix subscribers know, Stranger Things Season 3 has a confirmed premiere date of July 4. Instead of relaxing as they wait for the release of the new season, creators Matt and Ross Duffer have a more pressing date in the front of their minds. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Michael Stern has dismissed their attempt to get the plagiarism case against them thrown out.

According to Vanity Fair, filmmaker Charlie Kessler filed a lawsuit against the Duffer brothers back in April of 2018. Kessler alleges that the brothers stole ideas for the Netflix series from his 2012 short film, one titled Montauk.

Kessler insists he shared the details of his film to the Duffer brothers while they were attending a party during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. He believes the Duffers found the premise of his short film so captivating that they used it as a foundation to create Stranger Things.

According to Kessler’s attorney, this isn’t the first time the Duffer brothers have been accused of plagiarism. A former roommate reportedly accused the siblings of ripping him off to create their 2015 horror film Hidden.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Kessler and his lawyer are pushing for Netflix to release documents and a deposition that the Duffer brothers want to keep sealed. The Duffer brothers feel that these documents could be damaging to the Season 3 premiere, and to potential future seasons of the series.

“Public disclosure threatens substantial harm not only to their legitimate privacy interests, but also as to their ongoing commercial efforts, including by revealing confidential information that may be included in future episodes of Stranger Things and weakening the Duffers’ (and Netflix’s) position in future commercial negotiations,” a member of the Duffers’ legal team explained to the judge as they motioned to keep the documents sealed.

For those unfamiliar with the Netflix series, Stranger Things is a science fiction show that tells the story of paranormal activity surrounding a small fictional town in Indiana. The story is told from the point of view of a small group of teenagers, as well as from the perspectives of their close friends and family members. Not only has the show snagged a few awards, it has been credited for launching the career of young actress Millie Bobby Brown.

According to Cinema Blend, Montauk is a film about a young boy who goes missing near a military base that is conducting experiments on children. The film also includes a mysterious creature that came from an alternate dimension. The media outlet goes on to explain that one of the real key differences between Stranger Things and Montauk is the setting of the stories. Kessler’s film takes place in Long Island, New York, while the Netflix offering takes place in a fictional town in the state of Indiana.

“Now that the Judge has ruled and denied their motion for summary judgment, we can now dispense with the nonsense promoted by the Duffers and Netflix that this lawsuit has no merit, and that they had ‘proof’ that they created the show. If the lawsuit had no merit, or if they actually had the ‘proof’ they created it, then their summary judgment would have won. They lost. These motions are very hard to fight and winning this Motion shows Mr. Kessler has a good case. We look forward to proving Mr. Kessler’s case at trial,” Kessler’s attorney, Michael Kernan, said in his official statement reacting to the news of the judgment.

On multiple occasions, Matt and Ross Duffer have denied the plagiarism accusations. They argue that the lawsuit is nothing more than Kessler’s attempt to cash in on the profits surrounding the Netflix series.

A spokesperson for Netflix told The Hollywood Reporter that they fully support the Duffer brothers, and do not believe the plagiarism case holds any merit.

The trial date for the case is slated for May 6.