Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Thursday, June 13, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Cafe Owner Insists He Wrote Original ‘Avatar’

VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) - Two years after filing a copyright complaint against "Avatar" creator James Cameron in British Columbia Supreme Court, a Vancouver cafe owner has taken his fight to the Federal Court of Canada.

Emil Malak sued Cameron, Twentieth Century Fox, Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Film Partners, Future Service and Lightstorm Entertainment; he claims they swiped "Avatar" from his "literary and artistic work," "Terra Incognita," which he says was published in mid-1997.

Malak claims he "employed a team of three individuals, a co-writer, a graphic designer and a sketcher under 'work made for hire' arrangements ... in order to develop the concept into a major motion picture and a television series with the ability to create a line of merchandise, books and toy action figures therefrom."

He claims he registered "the initial treatment, screenplay and the 13-part television series treatments" with the Writers Guild of Canada.

From July 2001 through April 2002, Malak claims, the TV series "Dark Angel," produced by Cameron and Lightstorm, was filmed across the street from his restaurant.

After inquiring, Malak says, sent "Terra Incognita" to Cameron and Lightstorm in October 2002, and later to other film studios, including Fox.

Malak claims "Avatar" includes "substantial similarities" to his work. He says he established a website, tiuniverse.com, in 2010 to allow "the public to view and independently compare 'Terra Incognita' and 'Avatar.'"

The defendants denied swiping the story from Malak and have refused to provide documents for forensic examination, according to the complaint.

"The defendants' unauthorized use of 'Terra Incognita' by the production, distribution and sale of 'Avatar,' which incorporates substantial aspects of 'Terra Incognita,' has infringed the plaintiff's copyright and has further depreciated the plaintiff's moral rights in his original work," the complaint states.

Malak is represented by Suzan El-Khatib of Vancouver, who refused to comment about the lawsuit.

Malak, reached at his Belaggio Cafe in Vancouver, told Courthouse News in an interview that the defendants failed to produce files which they claim prove that James Cameron wrote the script in 1996.

Malak said he has immense respect for Cameron, whom he called a "genius," and said he withdrew his initial lawsuit to await disclosure of evidence.

Malak said he took his claims to the Federal Court of Canada after retaining computer experts who told him that a file defendants claimed had been created in 1996 was actually created in 2009 and backdated.

Malak said he would withdraw his claims if defendants provided proof that "Avatar" was conceived in 1996, but he claims his requests to have computer experts examine certain evidence have fallen on deaf ears, forcing him back to court.

The entire case, Malak said, rests on the existence of a computer file that defendants have failed to produce, and which he believes does not exist.

Malak said he would gladly go away if defendants showed that the similarities between his story and "Avatar" were the result of pure coincidence or "divine intervention," but so far, they haven't.

"I don't want to fight them. These are big boys," Malak said. "Divine intervention doesn't happen on Earth, maybe planet Avatar, but not here."

At least four other "Avatar"-related lawsuits have been filed against Cameron and Lightstorm, in Los Angeles (2), Baltimore and District of Columbia federal courts, from other writers who claim he swiped elements of their work.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.