In a court filing on Tuesday, Universal contended that MGM’s goal is “not to prevent the infringement of the James Bond works. They are instead intent on scaring away Universal and any other would-be competitors, thereby gaining a monopoly on the British spy genre.”
But Bobby Schwartz, the attorney representing MGM, said that Universal’s latest response to the lawsuit “is hollow rhetoric from a studio, coming on the heels of a judge rejecting their arguments.”
“There is nothing original or creative about that screenplay,” he said.
U.S. District Judge James Otero last month refused to dismiss MGM’s lawsuit, which it filed in April along with longtime James Bond producer Danjaq. They claim that Universal and screenwriter Aaron Berg are infringing on the 007 franchise, even though “Section 6” is set around the formation of MI6 after World War I.
Otero’s decision was originally sealed, but a redacted version was recently released showing that he found enough similarities between the “Section 6” script and the Bond franchise to warrant keeping the litigation alive. He cited some of the screenplay’s dialogue, specifically in the way that the lead “Section 6” character Alec Duncan and James Bond introduce themselves. “Duncan. Alec Duncan.” and “Bond. James Bond.”
“The similarities are sufficient to give rise to a claim for copyright infringement,” Otero wrote. He cited a previous 1995 court ruling in favor of MGM which sought to stop a Honda commercial featuring a charming British spy character and other elements that suggested, but did not name, Bond. Otero noted that the court ruled back then that “both James Bond movie scenes and the James Bond character were copyrightable because the films were ‘unique in their expression of the spy thriller idea,’ and although James Bond has been portrayed by different actors in different movies, his ‘specific qualities remain constant.'”
“In the current case, ‘Section 6’ bears more similarities than the Honda commercial: Plaintiffs have pointed out many similarities in character, theme, plot, sequence and dialogue,” Otero wrote.
Universal has also argued that the MGM lawsuit is premature as it has not decided whether to make “Section 6.” But Otero wrote that because Universal purchased rights to the screenplay, and has hired various people to develop the project, that amounted to a “transitory” film-making product that made the “copyright issues ripe for review.”
“Universal’s assertion that it does not intend to infringe Plaintiff’s copyright is also irrelevant because good faith is not an excuse for copyright infringement,” he wrote.
Schwartz called on Universal to ask Otero to remove his redactions to disclose the similarities between the script and 007.
Nevertheless, Universal contends that the MGM lawsuit is “antithetical to copyright law, which only protects concrete expression, not abstract ideas, and was never intended to be used as a sword to prevent lawful competition.”