You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Avatar’ Idea Theft Suit Rejected by Appellate Court

A federal appeals court rejected an artist’s claim that the plot of “Avatar” was stolen from an idea he pitched to writer-director James Cameron.

The appellate court panel sided 2-1 with Cameron and Lightstorm Entertainment in their contention that “Avatar” was an independent creation, with the director drawing upon produced and unproduced projects from the 1970s and ’80s that pre-dated the time he met artist Gerald Morawski in 1991.

The decision upholds a 2013 ruling from U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow, who found that although Morawski’s project pitch — called “Guardians of Eden” — bore similarities to “Avatar,” she was convinced by Cameron’s 45-page declaration that showed how “Avatar” was his own idea.

The appeals court noted that Cameron “presented detailed and copious evidence of independent creation. Under California law, if a defendant presents ‘clear’ and ‘positive’ evidence of independent creation, any inference of use of another’s work arising from access and substantial similarity is dispelled, and a plaintiff may no longer solely rely on that inference to establish improper use.”

Judge Morgan Christen dissented, concluding that the case still had contested issues of fact that warranted going forward with the case.

Jon Landau, Cameron’s producing partner, said in a statement, “While it is unfortunate that a myriad of fortune-hunting plaintiffs seek to take credit for the success of our film, we are grateful that the courts have consistently seen through these grossly meritless claims.”


More Biz

  • pharrell brain child show

    'Blurred Lines' Flares Up Again - Marvin Gaye Family Claims Pharrell Perjured Himself

    Like a zombie that just won’t stay dead, the “Blurred Lines” case keeps coming back. While the 2015 verdict, in which Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and the song’s publisher were ordered to pay nearly $5 million to Marvin Gaye’s family for infringing upon the late singer’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up,” was basically [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    WGA-Agency Showdown: Role of Showrunners at Heart of Legal Arguments

    The Los Angeles courtroom of U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte was packed with well-dressed lawyers on Friday morning, eager to watch a high-stakes brawl between Hollywood’s largest talent agencies and the Writers Guild of America. Birotte allowed only four lawyers from each side to sit at each table, leaving the vast majority of the attorneys [...]

  • 700700 + Ted Turner Dedication. December

    Ted Turner Tributes Established With WarnerMedia Gift to University of Georgia

    WarnerMedia has established a scholarship, internship program and exhibition hall at the University of Georgia to be named after maverick media mogul Ted Turner. The company has gifted $550,000 to the university to create the Ted Turner Scholarship Fund, for students attending the school’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, which is also the [...]

  • WGA Agents Contract Tug of War

    Judge Leans Toward Agencies' Position in Writers Guild Antitrust Suit

    A federal judge indicated on Friday that he will allow the three major agencies to pursue their antitrust lawsuit against the Writers Guild of America. The WGA has urged U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte to throw out the suit, arguing that its actions in its ongoing battle with the agencies are protected under antitrust law. [...]

  • Keli LeeStep Up Women Network 9th

    Keli Lee Exits ABC Studios International as Disney Considers Division's Fate (EXCLUSIVE)

    ABC veteran Keli Lee has left the international arm of ABC Studios as Disney considers the future of the London-based content unit, Variety has learned. Sources said Disney has told the creative community that there “has been a re-evaluation of ABC Studios International” and that it is re-assessing “the creative direction” of the business. There [...]

  • Biggest Scandals Feuds and Apologies of

    Biggest Scandals, Feuds and Apologies of 2019

    Variety looks back on some of the biggest scandals, feuds and apologies of 2019: College Admissions Scandal Wealthy parents including Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin were charged with bribing school officials to get their unqualified kids into prestigious universities. Shane Gillis Executives at “SNL” hired, then fired, Gillis in September, before the new season started, [...]

  • Biggest Media Moments of 2019

    From 'Catch & Kill' to Shepard Smith: The Biggest Media Moments of 2019

    Variety looks back on some of the most memorable media events of 2019: ‘Catch & Kill’ Reopens Wounds at NBC News Ronan Farrow’s book relitigates his complaints that NBC News tried to tamp down his investigation of harassment and assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein. NBC News denies the claim. The book contains new allegations against [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content