(CN) – A screenwriter who accused writers and producers of the 2013 summer hit movie “Elysium” of plagiarism has lost his federal copyright complaint.
Steve Wilson Briggs in October 2013 sued Sony Pictures Entertainment, writer Neill Blomkamp and Tristar Pictures, Media Rights Capital and QED International in the Oakland, Calif. Federal Court, claiming they stole the movie’s plot from a screenplay he made public in 2007.
The original screenplay, “Uberopolis: City of Light,” underwent several revisions until Briggs settled on its final version, which he titled “Butterfly Driver” and posted on the website triggerstreet.com.
In May 2013, Briggs said he watched a trailer for “Elysium” and recognized many similarities to “Butterfly Driver.”
After downloading a copy of the “Elysium” script in June 2013 and finding it resembled his own script, Briggs said, he obtained a copyright for his work from the U.S. Copyright Office on June 21.
He watched “Elysium” on Aug. 10, and thought it infringed upon his copyright.
In his pro se federal complaint, Briggs said Blomkamp must have obtained his script for “Butterfly Driver” from triggerstreet.com and used it to write the script for “Elysium.”
Blomkamp et al. filed a motion for a summary judgment. U.S. District Judge Phyllis J. Hamilton allowed them to “prevail merely by pointing out to the district court that there is an absence of evidence to support” Briggs’ case.
“If the moving party meets its initial burden, the opposing party must then set out specific facts showing a genuine issue for trial in order to defeat the motion,” Hamilton said.
In Briggs’ copyright claim, Hamilton said, he “must demonstrate both that the defendant had ‘access’ to the plaintiff’s work and that the two works are substantially similar.” But Briggs “has no evidence that Blomkamp or any defendant had access to his ‘Butterfly Driver’ screenplay,” the judge said.
Hamilton says Briggs’ accusations are “entirely speculative as they relate to Blomkamp’s access to the screenplay” and that he “failed to provide any evidence supporting his assertion that defendants had access to his screenplay.”
In granting summary judgment, Hamilton said Blomkamp and other defendants provided evidence showing Briggs’ script contains “themes that have appeared numerous times in the past” and “are not protectable.”
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