BOSTON (CN) – After the studio behind “Kung Fu Panda” judo-chopped through his copyright claims, a Massachusetts man faces federal fraud and perjury charges.
The charges against Jayme Gordon come nearly five years after the Randolph man hit DreamWorks Animation with a federal copyright complaint, alleging that the popular 2008 film starring Jack Black ripped off stories and drawings Gordon supposedly created in the 1990s.
Gordon tried to copyright his panda sketches after seeing a trailer for the film but before its release, and two years of litigation ensued after DreamWorks refused to settle Gordon’s claim for $12 million.
In 2013, a federal judge sanctioned Gordon for having shredded all of the supposedly original sketches he filed with the copyright office.
An indictment filed Monday against Gordon, 51, says DreamWorks eventually uncovered evidence that Gordon had traced some of his panda drawings from a coloring book with characters from Disney’s “Lion King.”
By the time Gordon dismissed his suit, DreamWorks had already spent $3 million in the court battle, prosecutors say.
While Gordon had made a cartoon called “Panda Power” in the 1990s, the government says his characters had little to do with the DreamWorks movie that went on to earn $632 million at the box office and spawned a sequel that did even better, grossing $665 million, in 2011. “Kung Fu Panda II” is set to hit theaters on Jan. 29, 2016.
The indictment alleges that Gordon took his “Panda Power” cartoon after seeing the “Kung Fu Panda” trailer, renamed it “Kung Fu Panda Power,” and revised the characters therein.
Gordon backdated his new drawings, lied repeatedly during his deposition, and destroyed computer evidence that he was required to produce in civil discovery, the government says.
The government charged Gordon with four counts of wire fraud and three counts of perjury. Fraud charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, a fine of $250,000 and restitution. Perjury provides for a sentence of no greater than five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of $250,000.
“Our intellectual property laws are designed to protect creative artists, not defraud them,” U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said in a statement. “The misuse of civil litigation as part of a fraud scheme, and lying under oath, as alleged in this case, warp our federal judicial system and must be addressed with appropriate criminal sanctions.”
Both “Kung Fu Panda” and its sequel were nominated for Academy Awards.
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