MGM, James Bond Producers Sue Universal Over ‘Section 6’ Project


MGM and James Bond producers Danjaq have filed a copyright infringement suit against NBCUniversal claiming that the studio’s “Section 6” feature project is a rip off of the lucrative 007 franchise.

The suit, filed late Thursday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, also names screenwriter Aaron Berg.

“This lawsuit concerns a motion picture project, in active development, featuring a daring, tuxedo-clad British secret agent, employed by ‘His Majesty’s Secret Service,’ with a ‘license to kill,’ and a 00 (double-O) secret agent number on a mission to save England from the diabolical plot of a megalomanical villain,” the suit states.

“Most moviegoers would assume from that description alone that this lawsuit concerns the next James Bond picture. It does not. This lawsuit is instead about a James Bond knockoff that defendant Universal is readying for production, based on a screenplay that defendant Berg wrote.”

The suit claims that the project, which is directed by Joe Cornish (“Attack the Block”) and stars Jack O’Connell (“Unbroken”), “misappropriates from the James Bond works far beyond the signature aspects of James Bond,” but that it copies “in detail nearly every aspect of the characters, plots dialogue, themes. setting, mood and other key elements of the copyrighted James Bond literary works and motion pictures.”

The courts have been ever-defining the extent to which copyright covers not just to specific projects, but to unique characters. In 1995, the federal court in Los Angeles ruled in favor of MGM in its contention that a Honda commercial violated its copyrights with a commercial that evoked Bond, even though that name was not used.

MGM and U have tangled over the project for several months, the suit states. MGM claims that it learned of the existence of the screenplay and that U had acquired rights to it, and then fired off a letter. U responded that it had not even optioned the project, and that had “no intention” of violating the copyright, MGM’s complaint states.

But last month, reports that U had hired a director, lead actor and four producers for the project triggered MGM’s ire again. MGM asked to see the most recent version of the screenplay, but Universal refused, the complaint states. MGM contends that U’s refusal to provide “concrete exculpatory information” about the latest version of “Section 6” “leads to the conclusion that Universal is continuing to develop a screenplay that constitutes an unauthorized derivative work based upon plaintiffs’ copyrighted James Bond works,” MGM says.

The screenplay for the project states that it is premised on historical facts, the lawsuit states, but MGM and Danjaq claim that the “core elements are fictional.” It also contends that even though U asserted that the project is a historical account of the formation of MI6 immediately after World War I, “the dialog and relationships between the characters are strikingly out of place and years ahead of their time for a story set in 1918.”

The suit contends that “Section 6” “imbue their James Bond knockoff with a ‘license to kill,’ employment by “Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” and a 00 agent number. All are creations of Ian Fleming, MGM argues.

MGM and Danjaq are seeking an injunction to prevent Universal from what they claim is an infringement on the Bond works.

A spokeswoman for Universal had no comment.

MGM  is represented in the suit by Bobby Schwartz, Cassandra Seto and Brian Finkelstein of O’Melveny & Myers and Marc Becker of Quinn Emanuel.

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  1. Joe Lovestick says:

    Longer Bond 24 is alright

  2. John Shea says:

    MI6, Military Intelligence Section 6, Her Majesty’s (Real) Secret Service could sue them all!
    Or just kill them…

  3. soundcinemas says:

    It reminds me a lot of the case Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corporation (2d Cir. 1930) I don’t see here the same execution, just the same “Ideas”

    If we follow MGM’s logic then the creator of Battle Royale should sue Suzanne Collins for “Hunger Games”

  4. Mark Rimmell says:

    At the drop of a hat these people will sue..A Bond movie is a Bond movie…Can we not have other MI5 or 6 spy chasers…Get a life MGM…!!!!….Live and let live for once in your life..

  5. Basilik's Exposition says:

    This is just posturing, why not add New Line and Austin Powers to the lawsuit as well?

  6. Im happy for a minute I thought I would not be able to produce my spy thriller. OKAY ALL British actors back on set.

  7. avlisk says:

    As an Old Time Radio fan, I always thought the 007 series was ripped off from Secret Agent K-7, which aired in the late 1930’s. I guess it’s just how far back you want to track these things.

    • Earl A. Birkett says:

      The 60s was full of 007 rip-offs in movies and on tv. Thunderball itself was ripped off by Ian Fleming from a screenplay collaboration. And Hitchcock’s Notorious, which came out in 1946 and plays like a very early Bond film, must have influenced Fleming when he created the character.

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