The Walt Disney Company is currently facing a copyright lawsuit over the $4.5 billion Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
It is being alleged by A. Lee Alfred, II and Ezequiel Martinez, Jr. that Disney took “copyrighted expression of themes, settings, dialogue, characters, plot, mood, sequence of events” from a spec script they were working on in 2000 simply titled Pirates of the Caribbean.
While working with Disney on their script for Red Hood, the pair claims that they submitted the script for Pirates. It was during their work on the never-produced Red Hood that they claim they worked closely with Disney’s Brigham Taylor, Josh Harmon and Michael Haynes, among others.
Producer, Tova Laiter, claims to have handed the Pirates script and a sizzle reel to Taylor in early August of 2000 and, soon after, the relationship with Disney began to fade. Especially after a copy of the screenplay along with original artwork was supposedly seen in Taylor’s office and the trio quickly rushed out of the room.
The complaint filed Tuesday in Colorado federal court on behalf of the two writers and Laiter states, “The opportunity to have a major film studio, such as Defendants, take a screenwriter’s original spec screenplay and turn the work into a major motion picture is the ultimate dream. A. Lee Alfred, II and Ezequiel Martinez, Jr. almost realized that dream, but they this dream quickly turned into a nightmare, when their original work, ‘The Screenplay,’ was intentionally copied and commercially exploited by Defendant’s, creating a billion-dollar franchise, with no credit or compensation to Alfred or Martinez.”
Soon after the meeting in Taylor’s office the the writers were paid for their work on Red Hood and their time with Disney was seemingly over.
“Shortly thereafter, Laiter was informed by Taylor that the Defendants were going to pass on the project due to children being in ‘The Screenplay’, the 25-page filing details. Alfred and Martinez were both on the phone (listening on silent) when Laiter was informed that Defendants were passing on the original spec screenplay and passing on the project,” it notes. “At no point during the conversation did the Defendants state that they had another screenplay already and were moving forward with a Pirates of the Caribbean film project,” the complaint adds.
It is also mentioned in the compliant that Taylor told the group back in 2000 “that the idea of a film based on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride had been suggested over the years and that the Defendants had considered making a film based on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride recently.”
In regards to this lawsuit, Disney has said, “This complaint is entirely without merit, and we look forward to vigorously defending against it in court.”
The plaintiffs just recently registered “their original works of authorship with the U.S. Copyright Office on October 3rd, 2017,” and the offer no explanation as to why it took them so long to recognize any type of copyright infringement within the Pirates franchise.
This suit is seeking a wide range of damages and profits as well as an injunction that would put all the films in the franchise in jeopardy.
Photo credit: Disney
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