LOS ANGELES, Calif. (CN) — The creators of the film “Avatar” did not lift elements from a science-fiction writer’s short story “KRZ 2068” an appellate judge ruled.
Second Appellate District Judge Madeleine Flier found “Avatar” was independently created rather than jointly created or copied as Eric Ryder attempts to continue to argue.
In late 2011, Ryder sued James Cameron and his production company, Lightstorm Entertainment Inc., claiming they expressed interest in using parts of his science fiction story to make what eventually turned out to be the Academy Award winning Sci-Fi epic.
The 2009 film is set in the future on the fictional Planet Pandora where mountains fly and rainforests are lush with exotic flora and fauna. Humanoid inhabitants of the planet are strong, 10 foot tall, blue skinned beings with long tails that live in harmony with their environment.
The film follows a 22-year-old paraplegic ex-Marine who is taken to Pandora to take over his twin brother’s job as avatar operator after his brother dies. Jake soon discovers that the avatar he trains allows him to experience walking again and the film plot builds from there.
In 1995, Cameron wrote a 102-page detailed script treatment in which he outlined the story, characters, visual images and setting for the film. However, the project languished for a decade until Cameron as convinced technology had caught up with his vision.
A year after Cameron wrote his treatment, 3-D computer animator Ryder wrote his short science fiction story “KRZ 2068.” He and his wife created a “notice to recipients” to solicit financing and turn the story into an animated 3-D film.
The couple intended the notice to also serve as a confidentiality agreement to protect the story from being duplicated.
Four years later, with the help of movie producer Andrew Wald, Ryder’s story ended up in Lightstorm’s offices although Cameron was not part of the initial and on-going discussion of how to refine the story to make it more marketable.
Instead, it was Lightstorm’s development executive, Jay Sanders, who said “how unique and really cool he thought the KRZ story was,” court documents said.
Ryder claims Sanders devoted 30 to 40 hours to the project, but
in 2000, Lightstorm passed on the project during a meeting that Cameron did not attend.
Ryder and his investors continued to try to sell the short story for several more years, writing two drafts of the screenplay and eventually renaming the story “The Adjuster.”
These efforts did not meet with success.
After the release of “Avatar”, Ryder sued Lightstorm Entertainment in Los Angeles Superior Court, but the court found “no triable issue of fact.”
Ryder appealed arguing that Sanders caused him to incur a “detriment” by not telling him about the existence of the “Avatar” treatment while they were working on his project.
Ryder went on to describe what he said were similarities between his story and “Avatar,” including 12 elements he feels were added to the “Avatar” film directly from his story.
In Monday’s decision, Judge Flier said Cameron’s script treatment was created before Ryder approached Lightstorm Entertainment with his short story, and wrote “where defendant owns a prior work containing the same elements, he has no reason, beyond the illicit thrill of copyright infringement, to copy wrongfully from another what he could legally copy from himself.”
She went on to explain that the 12 elements Ryder claimed were taken from his story and added to “Avatar” film no considerable similarities.
As for Ryder’s claim that Sanders did not tell him about “Avatar” in order to use his story to develop the film, Judge Flier held even if that was true, none of the ideas were actually used.
“Even if defendants sought to keep ‘KRZ’ out of the market between 2000 and 2001, Ryder offered no evidence he could have sold ‘KRZ’ elsewhere or otherwise missed any other development opportunities during that time. Indeed, the undisputed evidence showed Sanders, Wald, Baffo, and Ryder unsuccessfully attempted to sell ‘KRZ’ for years after Lightstorm passed but before Avatar was released, including by resubmitting it to Lightstorm, which again passed.”
Cameron’s attorney, Emily Evitt of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP, did not have any comments to offer about the ruling.
Ryder’s attorneys did not response to a request for comment.
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