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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
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MI-6 Flick Assumes License to Steal, MGM Says

LOS ANGELES (CN) - MGM claims in court that an NBCUniversal screenplay about the formation of British spy agency MI6 violates copyright on the "James Bond" movies.

Danjaq, the holding company for the James Bond copyrights and trademarks, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios want a federal judge to block NBCUniversal from making a movie of the "Section 6" screenplay by co-defendant Aaron Berg. Universal City Studios also is a defendant

MGM claims Berg's screenplay features "a daring, tuxedo-clad British secret agent, employed by 'His Majesty's Secret Service,' with a 'license to kill,' and a OO ('double-O') secret agent number, on a mission to save England from the diabolical plot of a megalomaniacal villain."

"Most moviegoers would assume from that description alone that this lawsuit concerns the next James Bond motion picture. It does not. This lawsuit instead is about a James Bond knockoff that defendant Universal is readying for production, based on a screenplay that defendant Berg wrote," the 34-page complaint states.

The studio claims that Berg and Universal are "freely helping themselves to vast portions" of Ian Fleming's James Bond novels, short stories and wildly popular and profitable movie franchise.

"Danjaq and MGM did not develop the intellectual property that underlies and appears in the James Bond motion pictures so that Universal and Berg could grab it for their own use and profit. But that is exactly what defendants are doing," the lawsuit states.

MGM claims that Berg and Universal have stolen elements of the James Bond character for Berg's hero, Alex Duncan. Berg even ripped off Bond's famous introduction, "The name is Bond, James Bond," by having Duncan introduce himself in the script as "'Duncan, Alex Duncan,'" MGM says.

Berg plagiarized plots from multiple Bond movies, including "Dr. No," "From Russia with Love," "Goldfinger," "On Her Majesty's Secret Service," "The Spy Who Loved Me," and "For Your Eyes Only," MGM claims in the lawsuit.

The screenwriter asserted that his story is based on real life events and declassified documents, according to the complaint.

But MGM says that any claim that the story is based on historical fact is "not true," and calls the script mostly "fictional and historically inaccurate."

"Further undermining defendants' assertion that 'Section 6' is a historical account of the formation of MI6 immediately after World War I, the dialogue and relationships between the characters are strikingly out of place and years ahead of their time for a story set in 1918, as 'Section 6' purports to be," the complaint states. "The reason for that incongruity is because defendants have lifted those elements wholesale from the James Bond motion pictures, which are set in contemporary times."

Berg was an unknown writer when he wrote the speculative "Section 6" screenplay, named after MI6's unabbreviated title, Military Intelligence, Section 6. The screenplay appeared on the 2013 Blacklist, which polls industry insiders each year for the hottest screenplays in Hollywood.

Universal reportedly beat out other studios to acquire Berg's script last year for $2 million.

MGM and Danjaq then wrote a letter to Universal detailing the alleged infringements. It claims Universal assured it that if it developed the script it would make changes so the story did not include any Bond elements.

But MGM says Universal proceeded with the "Section 6" movie, with "Attack the Block" filmmaker director Joe Cornish and star Jack O'Connell, without confirming whether the project borrows from the Bond franchise.

"Contrary to Universal's November 2013 written assurances, it appears that Universal intends to infringe plaintiffs' 'James Bond' copyrights and is doing so," the lawsuit states.

In addition to Danjaq and MGM, United Artists and five MGM subsidiary leasing companies are named as plaintiffs.

They seek damages for infringement, contributory copyright infringement, vicarious copyright infringement, and inducement of copyright infringement.

They also want production of any infringing movie enjoined, profits from it if it is made, and costs.

Danjaq and MGM are represented by Robert Schwartz with O'Melveny & Myers.

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