Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Filed over James Cameron Film Avatar

By Kamika Dunlap on May 20, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

"Avatar" director James Cameron is now facing another copyright infringement lawsuit.

Kelly Van is the latest person to file a lawsuit alleging James Cameron, Fox and producers of the science fiction blockbuster "Avatar," lifted material from her 2003 book, "Sheila the Warrior: The Damned," according to the Hollywood Reporter's Legal Blog, THR, Esq.

The complaint does not mention exactly how producers were able to obtain her work, but it alleges that the James Cameron film has similarity in characters, setting, plot and visual effects.

Van's copyright infringement lawsuit was filed in California district court. She is requesting an injunction and maximum statutory damages from the James Cameron film.

In general, copyright infringement involves any violation of the exclusive rights of the copyright owner. It may be unintentional or intentional. Infringement of copyright is usually established through circumstantial evidence. Typically, such evidence must show a substantial similarity between the original and the copy, as well as prove that the copier had access to the original.

A Vancouver man filed the first Avatar rip-off lawsuit, according to THR, Esq.

Emil Malak says that "Avatar" bears a striking resemblance to his screenplay, "Terra Incognita," copyrighted in 1998.

In October 2002, Malak claims he sent the script and some graphic designs to about 20 movie studios, including Cameron's Lightstorm Entertainment, and never got a response.

Because the owner loses the value of a copyright when infringement occurs, relief is often sought through filing a lawsuit in federal court. If infringement is established, the court can grant preliminary and permanent injunctions, or court orders that restrain the offending party from continuing to infringe the copyright. A court may also award monetary damages as a remedy for copyright infringement.

"This suit is absolutely baseless," a studio spokesperson tells THR, Esq. "Jim Cameron's treatment for Avatar was written before Ms. Van alleges she even started to write her book."

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