‘Avatar’ Wins Against Two Copyright Claims

Director James Cameron defeated copyright infringement claims against the epic sci-fi flick Avatar twice in one day, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals got two copies of the movie.

In separate unpublished orders Tuesday, a three-judge panel upheld dismissal of claims that Cameron lifted the ideas by Elijah Schkeiban in his book and screenplay, Bats and Butterflies, and Kelly Van that her novel, Sheila the Warrior: The Damned.

The panel said in the Schkeiban case that his case was properly dismissed because Avatar and Bats and Butterflies were not “substantially similar in their protected elements.”

There are a few similarities between plot, themes, dialogue, mood, settling and characters between the two works, but they are unprotectable general plot ideas.

As for Van’s novel, the panel also found that there was no substantial similarity between protected elements of her copyrighted novel and elements of Avatar.  The general concepts of humans traveling to another planet or individuals flying is unprotected, the court held.

Cameron wrote, directed and co-produced the 2009 blockbuster movie Avatar about tall blue tribe of humanoid species living on a planet, Pandora, where humans have gone to mine a precious mineral. It became the highest grossing film of all time, surpassing another Cameron-directed film, Titanic.

In both cases the panel granted the defendant’s motion to submit DVD copies of Avatar to the court for review.  [Law clerks, ask for a movie break.]

The panel included Judges Richard Clifton, Randy Smith and Morgan Christen.

Case:  Schkeiban v. Cameron, No. 12-56964

Van v. Cameron, No. 12-55416

 

 

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