Director James Cameron has won a copyright case over the plot of his blockbuster film Avatar. Writer Elijah Schkeiban claimed that Cameron took plot elements from his screenplay for the unmade film Bats and Butterflies, which was based on his own children’s book series. He sought a share of Avatar‘s enormous box-office earnings. However, The Wrap reports that on Monday a judge ruled that Schkeiban’s screenplay was “not substantially similar” to Cameron’s film.
Schkeiban had cited similarities between Avatar‘s paraplegic hero and the Bats and Butterflies protagonist, a “weak” boy. He also claimed that a plot device in which “the bad guys attack the good guys” was borrowed from his story. Judge Manuel Real disputed such claims, ruling that Schkeiban’s story was “a straightforward children’s story that lacks the depth and complexity of the moods expressed in Avatar.”
Cameron’s lawyers added, “Even at this basic level of idea, the characters differ. Being seen as weak is not protectable expression.” They also argued, “Again, bad guys attacking good guys is not copyrightable.”
The Guardian points out that several other copyright cases have been made against Cameron over Avatar since the film’s release in 2009. Like Schkeiban, the other plaintiffs have not succeeded.
While Cameron continues to successfully defend his film’s originality, a common negative criticism against Avatar upon its release and in the years since is its arguably derivative plot.
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox, Everett, Rex Features / The Guardian