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Sunday, May 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Writer Claims Fox Stole ‘Touch’ From Him

MANHATTAN (CN) - An "aspiring" writer claims in court that Fox Entertainment stole the basis of its supernatural TV series "Touch" from his novel and screenplay "about an autistic child who served as the author's inspiration".

In addition to Fox Entertainment Group, Everette Hallford sued screenwriter Richard "Tim" Kring; actor-executive producer Keifer Sutherland; Tailwind Productions, of which Kring is a partner or owner; and Peter Chernin and Chernin Entertainment, in Federal Court.

Hallford claims there is a "reasonable possibility" that Kring came across a copy of Hallford's novel, "Visionary," after Hallford gave it to a children's doctor who knew the writer-producer. Hallford claims he included a copy of a link to a website for the screen version of the book, called "Prodigy," which he also wrote.

After Kring read his work, Hallford claims, the "Touch" producers stole his work and have "shamelessly taken credit for its creation."

"Visionary" was published in 2008 by small Catholic publisher Tumblar House, with 'Michael' Hallford named as the book's author. Hallford says that his experiences as the father of an autistic child inspired both novel and screenplay.

"In or about May 2009, Mr. Hallford spent every day at Schneider's Children's Hospital until July 2009 when his granddaughter of 8 months died from an aggressive pineal blastoma cancer," the complaint states. "In the course of his time there, he had developed a relationship with the bioethics representative of the hospital, Robert C. Cassidy Jr., who told him that he was close friends to Tim Kring, the creator of 'Heroes,' and he had gone to college with him and/or was his college roommate and close friend. Mr. Hallford spoke a number of times with Mr. Cassidy Jr. and also with the social worker at the hospital. Mr. Cassidy Jr. told Mr. Hallford that, that particular week Kring was in New York on hiatus from his show in California, and invited Mr. Hallford to tag along for diner or coffee wherever they were meeting. Instead, Mr. Hallford and Mr. Cassidy Jr. exchanged email addresses and Mr. Hallford gave Mr. Cassidy Jr. an autographed copy of his novel, 'Visionary,' which he was in the habit of carrying around with him. Further, Mr. Hallford told Mr. Cassidy Jr. that he wrote a screenplay and provided him with a written copy of the website addresses where 'Prodigy' could be found on the Internet so that Mr. Cassidy could give it to Mr. Kring in the hopes that Mr. Kring could help his works get produced."

Although Hallford does not confirm whether Kring ever received or read his work, he claims that "it cannot reasonably be argued" that the television producer came up with the idea for the series himself.

To bolster his claims, Hallford cites several similarities:

"In both works, one of the two central characters is a young autistic boy with special powers and an intimate knowledge of the interconnectedness of all things. In both works, this boy is eleven years old.

"In both works, the other central character, the father, is a failed journalist whose wife has died and, accordingly, is overcome by grief.

"Mr. Hallford's screenplay specifically references a book by Michael Talbot titled 'Holographic Universe,' and the theories of a physicist named David Bohm. Significantly, the characters in Touch are named Martin and Jacob Bohm.

"Both works take place in New York.

"In both works the boy manifests symptoms which resemble autism.

"In both works the boy does not connect and appears rigid and unresponsive, but later demonstrates that he is acutely aware of his surroundings.

"In both works, the boy acts on his ability, and the other party involved becomes aggressive reflecting a common theme, the general intolerance and cultural ignorance of autism and its behaviors.

"In both works, the young boy communicates through a crypted medium.

"In both works, the boy has the ability to see the future. The surrounding characters, realizing they can use this information, begin to act on what they learn from the boy."

Hallford adds that there are "dozens of identical events that occur in virtually the same sequence."

"Touch" debuted on Fox in January. The second episode is to air this month.

Copyright lawsuits against Hollywood by little known writers are a staple of U.S. courthouses. Last year, a man claimed that Hangover 2's producers stole his biographical script.

James Cameron's "Avatar" has been the subject of numerous suit alleging plagiarism.

Such claims are rarely successful and are vigorously defended.

Hallford is represented by Joseph Nohavicka with Mavromihalis Pardalis & Nohavicka of Astoria, N.Y. He seeks an injunction and statutory damages for copyright infringement.

Kring's legal representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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