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Warner Bros. Wins ‘Matrix’ Idea Theft Lawsuit

A federal judge has ruled in favor of Warner Bros. in its defense against a playwright who claimed his screenplay was the basis for “The Matrix” trilogy.

U.S. District Judge R. Gary Klausner granted summary judgment to the studio on Monday, concluding that Thomas Althouse’s project “The Immortals” did not contain “substantial similarities” to warrant the litigation proceeding to trial. He wrote that the 118 examples cited by Althouse in his lawsuit “are either too general for copyright protection, are scenes a faire, or are commonly used, unoriginal ideas.”

After the suit was filed in January, Warner Bros. contended that Andy and Lana Wachowski began working on “The Matrix” in 1992 and completed a draft of the scripts for all three films by 1993. Althouse claimed that he submitted his “Immortals” script to the studio in 1993.

Klausner wrote that the only similarity in plot was that “both stories portray a protagonist attempting to prevent a dominant group from oppressing and annihilating a subservient group.” But that similarity is too general to be protected by copyright.

He wrote that other details are not substantially similar.

“In ‘The Immortals,’ Hitler and the Nazis are cryrogenically frozen and then reanimated at a time when their cohorts have successfully created an immortality drug,” Klausner wrote. “The protagonist, Jim, must fight the now-immortal Nazis who seek to oppress and destroy all ‘Short-lifers.’ In contrast, in ‘The Matrix’ trilogy, machines harvest humans’ energy while trapping their minds in a virtual reality known as the ‘matrix.’ The protagonist, Neo, seeks to free humans from enslavement by the machines and protect a group of rebels who live freely in the real world.”

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