California Case Law - The FindLaw California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal Opinion Summaries Blog

James Cameron Wins Again in Avatar Suit

Director James Cameron won another legal victory in California appeals court recently when a judge affirmed a lower court ruling generally finding that Cameron did not steal ideas from another writer in making his blockbuster hit Avatar.

So far, the courts have been favorable to Mr. Cameron. It is unclear whether or not the complainants plan to appeal this to a higher court, but with a portion of $3 billion at stake, we wouldn't be surprised.

Stolen Ideas?

Eric Ryder was a science fiction writer who penned the story "K.R.Z. 2068," a science fiction story that involves the colonization and mining of minerals on a distant moon. Ryder pitched KRZ to creative teams over at Lightstorm Productions, Cameron's company. Initially, the story piqued the interest of the team, but had to undergo several revisions before it could be presented to Cameron. All the while, Lightstorm allegedly made it clear that they were interested in Ryder's story. Script hell afflicted the story until KRZ was taken to other companies for pitching. Later, Avatar was released and became a box office hit that we all came to either love or hate.

Justice Affirms for Cameron

Ryder's suit was based on several contract theories as well as fraud and deceit theories -- mostly tied to the fact that Lightstorm allegedly strung Ryder along. But the district court felt that the "substantially similar" standard had not been met to show an idea-theft cause of action. The appeals court felt similarly and went detail by detail from the setting of the planetary body to the use of explosions in the story to mine mineral wealth (remember "unobtainium"?).

Suggestions of Bias?

The appeals court decision was the latest line of defeats for writer Ryder and his team of creative artists. In 2013, he suffered a dismissal of his case after the California Superior Court judge Susan Bryan-Deason refused to recuse herself from the case despite her husband being a producer for Fox, the producer of "Avatar."

Related Resources: