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Artist Loses ‘Avatar’ Copyright Complaint

MANHATTAN (CN) - A visual artist failed to persuade a federal judge that James Cameron ripped off his artwork in the movie "Avatar."

William Roger Dean is a British artist known for his cover art for rock bands such as Yes, Uriah Heep, and Asia.

Dean sued director James Cameron in 2013, claiming that elements of the universe in the 2009 movie "Avatar" ripped off Dean's artwork.

"Avatar" is set in the fictional planet of Pandora, and features mountains, arches, trees, and creatures that Dean claims infringe on his copyrighted artwork.

The defendants, including Cameron, Twentieth Century Fox, and Lightstorm Entertainment, moved to dismiss Dean's amended complaint, which a federal judge granted Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Jesse M. Furman called Dean's attempts to show substantial similarity between the works "plainly misguided."

"Many of the 'Avatar images' he includes are not from the film itself, but are taken from books about or derived from Avatar (including, for example, 'The Making of Avatar' and 'The Art of Avatar)," Furman wrote. "By plaintiff's own admission, those books are 'not part of the claims in this case.'"

Dean also submitted examples of Internet postings in which people speculated if his artwork inspired "Avatar." But Furman noted that one such posting suggests "Fraggle Rock," "Return of the Jedi," and the Blue Man Group may have inspired the film.

The judge rejected the idea that the "Hallelujah Mountains" in "Avatar" were substantially similar to Dean's artwork depicting floating islands.

"The works are indisputably similar insofar as they present the natural world in a fantastical way by depicting airborne land masses," Furman wrote. "But plaintiff does not have a monopoly on the idea of floating or airborne land, an idea that has been around since at least 1726, when Jonathan Swift published his classic 'Gulliver's Travels.'"

Furman granted the defendants' motion to dismiss Dean's amended complaint, and closed the case.

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