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Comic Book Writer Says Universal|Stole ‘Cowboys & Aliens’ From Him

AUSTIN (CN) - A comic book artist/writer claims Universal Studios and Dreamworks stole the idea for the hit movie "Cowboys & Aliens" from his 1995 comic book of the same title.

Steven John Busti claims his "Cowboys and Aliens" was published in January 1995 in the issue "Bizarre Fantasy No. 1."

Busti, a veteran comic book artist and writer, accuses Universal Studios, Dreamworks II Distribution Co., Platinum Studios and its chairman and CEO Scott Mitchell Rosenberg of copyright infringement.

"Some time in early 1994, plaintiff came up with the concept for a new comic centered around the idea of alien invaders set during the old west," according to the complaint.

"By late 1994, plaintiff had finished his creation which was to appear in his comic book series 'Bizarre Fantasy' and would be titled 'Cowboys and Aliens.'

"In November of 1994, a preview of the 'Cowboys and Aliens' story appeared on the back cover of 'Bizarre Fantasy #0. Also, in this month, Comic Shop News, a comic-book-oriented publication distributed to comic book stores nationwide, published issue #388, which ran a feature on plaintiff's 'Cowboys and Aliens.' In that same issue, on the same page that plaintiff's feature appeared, a story appeared concerning Malibu Studios and defendant Scott Mitchell Rosenberg.

"In January of 1995, 'Cowboys and Aliens' was published in the issue 'Bizarre Fantasy #1' and was internationally distributed on March 1, 1995."

Busti adds: "In October of 2006, defendant Platinum Studios Inc., with the personal direction of defendant Scott Mitchell Rosenberg, launched the graphic novel series 'Cowboys & Aliens.'

"Defendants' 'Cowboys & Aliens' graphic novel contains striking similarities to plaintiff's copyrighted 'Cowboys and Aliens' work, including an alien spaceship zooming overhead the main cowboy character, the spacecraft being discovered by Native American warriors (specifically Apache) who are then attacked. In addition, the alien commander in defendants' work is incredibly similar to the alien conqueror 'Morguu' in plaintiff's work. [Sample pages from the books are inserted here.]

"In June of 2010, filming of the movie adaptation of defendants' 'Cowboys & Aliens' began. The film was released by defendants Universal Studios and Dreamworks II Distribution Co. LLC, premiered on July 23, 2011 in San Diego, and July 29, 2011 nationwide and in Canada. The film has grossed over 100 million dollars domestically.

"The 'Cowboys & Aliens' film is scheduled to be released on DVD and Blu-Ray video format on December 6, 2011. Defendants have also entered into numerous merchandising agreements for the making of toys, posters, clothing etc."

Busti claims Platinum Studios and Universal Studios ignored an Aug. 3 letter from his attorney warning them of their copyright infringement.

"Defendants' infringing activity has caused plaintiff substantial damage as defendants have made, and continue to make, millions of dollars through the exploitation of their infringing works," the complaint states.

Busti seeks damages and a share of the profits.

He is represented by Joshua Jones.

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