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Matrix and Terminator copyright rulings

Matrix and Terminator copyright rulings

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Published by Daniel Ballard
Court rulings holding that Sophia Stewart did not author The Matrix or Terminator and awarding attorney fees to the defendants
Court rulings holding that Sophia Stewart did not author The Matrix or Terminator and awarding attorney fees to the defendants

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Published by: Daniel Ballard on Nov 30, 2009
Copyright:Public Domain

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Stewart v. Wachowski, 574 F.Supp.2d 1074 (C.D. Cal., 2005)- 1 -
574 F.Supp.2d 1074Sophia STEWART, Plaintiff,v.Andy WACHOWSKI, et al., Defendants.No. CV 03-2873 MMM (VBKx).United States District Court, C.D. California.June 14, 2005.Order Denying Reconsideration March 27, 2006.Page 1075COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTEDPage 1076COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTEDPage 1077COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTEDPage 1078
Michael Thomas Stoller, Michael T. Stoller LawOffices, Beverly Hills, CA, for Plaintiff.Robert A. Wyman, Bruce Isaacs, David H.Boren, Janna Smith, Wyman & Isaacs, Beverly Hills,CA, for Defendants.ORDER GRANTING THE TERMINATORDEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARYJUDGMENT AND THE MATRIX DEFENDANTS'MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENTMARGARET M. MORROW, District Judge.Plaintiff Sophia Stewart alleges that defendantsTwentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, JamesCameron and Gale Anne Hurd (collectively, the"Terminator Defendants") willfully infringed hercopyrighted literary works by making anddistributing The Terminator ("Terminator 1"),Terminator 2: Judgment Day ("Terminator 2") andTerminator 3: Rise of the Machines ("Terminator3").1 Stewart similarly alleges that defendantsWarner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., Andy Wachowski,Larry Wachowski, Joel Silver, and Thea Bloom(collectively, the "Matrix Defendants") willfullyinfringed her copyrighted literary works by makingand distributing The Matrix ("Matrix 1"), The MatrixReloaded ("Matrix 2"), and The Matrix Revolutions("Matrix 3").2 Stewart asserts claims for copyrightinfringement, declaratory relief, and violation of theRacketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961, et seq.3 In separatelyfiled motions, the Terminator Defendants and theMatrix Defendants have moved for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The court addresses both motions inthis order.Page 1079I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURALBACKGROUNDA. Stewart's Copyrighted WorksVirtually every fact in this action is disputed.Plaintiff Sophia Stewart is a screenwriter who worksunder the pseudonyms Zenia Kavala4 and SonyaStewart.5 Stewart's complaint alleges that, on orabout May 1, 1981, she created a six-page screentreatment titled "The Third Eye," which was a"scientific account of futuristic life."6 It furtheralleges that, on or about November 1, 1983, Stewartcreated a "45-page instrument" titled "The ThirdEye."7 The complaint identifies the title of bothworks as "The Third Eye" rather than "Third Eye."Stewart registered a copyright in the six-pagetreatment on February 2, 1983, and a copyright in the45-page instrument on February 6, 1984.8B. Allegations Against The TerminatorDefendantsStewart asserts that, in May 1981, she mailedthe six-page treatment to Susan Merzback, Vice-President of Creative Affairs for Twentieth CenturyFox Film Corporation.9 She also contends that, inresponse to an October 1983 telephone call from Foxseeking submission of the completed work, shemailed the completed manuscript to Fox's DavidMadden.10 For the next year and a half, Stewart andher agent, Ester Duffie, purportedly communicatedwith Fox employees, and made several attempts tosubmit the manuscript for the studio's consideration.Fox allegedly advised Stewart by mail that it couldnot accept the manuscript unless it was submitted byan agent registered with the Writer's Guild of America.11Stewart contends that James Cameron and GaleAnn Hurd "act[ed] in concert with Twentieth Century[Fox]" in releasing Terminator 1, Terminator 2, andTerminator 3. She alleges that Fox was an investor ineach of the Terminator films, and that it had a role inwriting, producing and distributing them.12 Shefurther asserts that each infringes her copyrightedworks.13The Terminator Defendants counter that noperson connected with the creative process that led toproduction of the Terminator films—including
 
Stewart v. Wachowski, 574 F.Supp.2d 1074 (C.D. Cal., 2005)- 2 -
Cameron and Hurd—had access to Stewart's "ThirdEye" literary materials.14 Although they concede thatFox had access to the Third Eye materials in the1980's, defendants assert that Fox was not involved increating or producing Terminator 1, 2, and 3.15Defendants also contend that neither Cameron norHurd had any relationship with Fox until after therelease of Terminator 1,16 and that Cameroncompleted the Terminator 1 screenplay in October1982,17Page 1080before Stewart finished the Third Eye manuscript.Finally, defendants assert that Stewart's claims failbecause she cannot establish that her works aresubstantially or strikingly similar to Terminator 1, 2,and 3.18C. Allegations Against The Matrix DefendantsAs respects the Matrix Defendants, Stewartalleges that, in the summer of 1986, she sent her six-page treatment and 45-page instrument to Andy andLarry Wachowski in response to an advertisement ina national magazine seeking works of sciencefiction.19 Stewart asserts that, although theWachowskis received the submission, they did notcontact her or return the copyrighted works.20In March 1999, the Wachowskis, allegedly"acting in concert with Silver, Warner Bothers andBloom," produced and distributed a film and comicbook series titled "The Matrix."21 That same month,Stewart allegedly discovered that the film and comicbook series infringed her copyrights in the treatmentand the 45-page instrument.22 As a result, shecommunicated with Warner Brothers and theWachowskis, demanding that they cease theirinfringing activities.23 Stewart asserts that shecontinued to correspond with Warner Brothers abouther claim through February 2001.24 She contendsthat the Wachowskis, "acting in concert with Silver,Warner Brothers and Bloom," released Matrix 2 andMatrix 3 as sequels, and that each was based on hercopyrighted works.25 On June 10, 1999, Stewartfiled a written complaint with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, charging that the Wachowskis, Silver,Warner Brothers, and others had infringed hercopyrights.26 Apparently, she at some point alsocharged that Terminator 1, 2 and 3 infringed hercopyrights.27The Matrix defendants contend that theWachowskis independently created Matrix 1, 2, and3,28 and that none of them had access to Stewart'sThird Eye literary materials.29 Defendants disputeStewart's allegation that the Wachowskis placed anadvertisement soliciting works of science fiction in amagazine in 1986, and further dispute that Stewartmailed her literary works to the Wachowskis.30Defendants assert that the purported similaritiesbetween the Third Eye literary materialsPage 1081and the Matrix films do not rise to the level of protectable expression.31 They also contend that theThird Eye literary materials are neither substantiallynor strikingly similar to the Matrix films.32D. Identifying Stewart's Protected MaterialsAs a threshold matter, the court must determinewhich works constitute Stewart's copyrighted "ThirdEye" literary materials. The operative complaintalleges:"Stewart is the legal and beneficial federalcopyright claimant, owner, and author of thefollowing intellectual property: (1) `The Third Eye,'United States Copyright Office Registration NumberTxu 117-610, effective date of registration, 2February 1983, attached hereto and incorporatedherein as Exhibit 1; (2) `The Third Eye,' which ...work was completed 1 May 1981, attached heretoand incorporated herein as Exhibit 2 (the work for thecreated epic manuscript was completed in 1983, andincludes the entire text (original story), the originaltreatment for a motion picture, which is the documentreferenced in Exhibit 1); (3) `The Third Eye' (add onmanuscript), United States Copyright Number Txu154-281, 6 February 1984, attached hereto andincorporated herein by reference as Exhibit 3 (whichincludes the add on manuscript, by Sophia Stewartunder her pseudonym Zenia Kavala, the originaldraft, graphic illustrations, character analysis,synopsis); and (4) "The Makings of The Third Eye,"which is attached hereto and incorporated herein byreference as Exhibit 4."33The exhibits attached to the complaint do nottrack this allegation. Exhibit 1 is a copyrightregistration for a work titled "Third Eye" by SophiaStewart. Exhibit 3 is a copyright registration for awork titled "Third Eye (Add-on Manuscript)" bySophia Maciél Stewart/Zenia Kavala.34 Exhibit 2 isthe six-page treatment,35 and Exhibit 4—which isidentified in paragraph 2 as "The Makings of TheThird Eye"—is in fact a 47-page manuscriptaccompanied by a table of contents, forward, prefaceand introduction.36 Although the complaint allegesthat "`The Third Eye' (add on manuscript)" includes,inter alia, "the original draft, graphic illustrations,character analysis, [and] synopsis," none of theexhibits includes these items. Similarly, although thecomplaint states that a document titled "The Makingsof The Third Eye" is attached, no exhibit bearing thattitle is included. Finally, although the complaintconsistently refers to Stewart's works as "The ThirdEye," the treatment and the 47-page manuscriptattached as exhibits bear the title "Third Eye."
 
Stewart v. Wachowski, 574 F.Supp.2d 1074 (C.D. Cal., 2005)- 3 -
In her opposition to the pending motions,Stewart now contends that "there are three sets of documents which make up [her] protected literaryworks."37 These are1. "Third Eye" by Sophia Stewart consisting of a6-page treatment.2. "The Third Eye" by Zenia Kavala consistingof (i) a 2-page synopsis, (ii) a single page characterlist, (iii) aPage 10822-page "character analysis," (iv) 5 pages of illustrations, (v) a single page outline of themanuscript titled "The Making of The Third Eye,"(vi) and the "original" manuscript consisting of 29pages of text, plus 5 pages containing the title page,table of contents, forward, preface and introduction.3. "Third Eye" by Sonya Stewart, a manuscriptconsisting of a table of contents, forward, preface,introduction, and a 47-page manuscript.38The court will refer to the first document as thetreatment, to the third document as the 47-pagemanuscript, and to the components of the second setof documents as (i) the synopsis, (ii) the characterlist, (iii) the character descriptions, (iv) theillustrations, (v) "The Making of The Third Eye,"39and (vi) the 29-page manuscript. Although Stewartattached only the first and third documents to hercomplaint, the complaint references the seconddocument and its components, identifying thedocument by various names, including: "`The ThirdEye' (add on manuscript),"40 "a 45 pageinstrument,"41 the "Epic Science FictionManuscript,"42 and "plaintiff's federal copyrightprotected complete 45 page `The Third Eye' EpicScience Fiction Manuscript."43 A careful reading of the complaint reveals that the 45-page documentincludes the original draft of Stewart's fullmanuscript, graphic illustrations, characterdescriptions, and a synopsis.44 It is unclear whether"The Making of The Third Eye" is part of the 45-page instrument or a separate document.45 For easeof reference, the court refers to the entire collectionof documents, including "The Making of The ThirdEye," as the "45-page instrument."46 The 29-pagemanuscript included in the 45-page instrument differsin only minor respects from the 47-page manuscript.E. The Pending ActionStewart filed this action on April 24, 2003. OnJuly 14, 2004, she filed a first amended complaint.On September 27, 2004, the court granted defendants'motion to dismiss Stewart's RICO claims with leaveto amend. On January 3, 2005, Stewart filed a secondamended complaint. Defendants once again moved todismiss Stewart's RICO causes of action.Concurrently with this order, the court grants thatmotion. Alternatively, as set forth in this order, itfinds that defendants are entitled to judgment on theRICO claims because no triable issues of fact remainregarding the copyright infringement on whichcertain of the RICO claims are based.II. DISCUSSIONA. Legal Standard Governing SummaryJudgmentA motion for summary judgment must begranted when "the pleadings, depositions,Page 1083answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file,together with the affidavits, if any, show that there isno genuine issue as to any material fact and that themoving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." FED.R.CIV.PROC. 56(c). A party seekingsummary judgment bears the initial burden of informing the court of the basis for its motion and of identifying those portions of the pleadings anddiscovery responses that demonstrate the absence of agenuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v.Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91L.Ed.2d 265 (1986). Where the moving party willhave the burden of proof on an issue at trial, themovant must affirmatively demonstrate that noreasonable trier of fact could find other than for themoving party. On an issue as to which thenonmoving party will have the burden of proof,however, the movant can prevail merely by pointingout that there is an absence of evidence to support thenonmoving party's case. See id. If the moving partymeets its initial burden, the nonmoving party must setforth, by affidavit or as otherwise provided in Rule56, "specific facts showing that there is a genuineissue for trial." Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477U.S. 242, 250, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202(1986); FED.R.CIV.PROC. 56(e).In judging evidence at the summary judgmentstage, the court does not make credibilitydeterminations or weigh conflicting evidence. Rather,it draws all inferences in the light most favorable tothe nonmoving party. See T.W. Electrical Service,Inc. v. Pacific Electrical Contractors Ass'n, 809 F.2d626, 630-31 (9th Cir. 1987). The evidence presentedby the parties must be admissible.FED.R.CIV.PROC. 56(e). Conclusory, speculativetestimony in affidavits and moving papers isinsufficient to raise genuine issues of fact and defeatsummary judgment. See Nelson v. Pima CommunityCollege, 83 F.3d 1075, 1081-82 (9th Cir.1996)("mere allegation and speculation do not create afactual dispute for purposes of summary judgment");Thornhill Pub. Co., Inc. v. GTE Corp., 594 F.2d 730,738 (9th Cir.1979).B. Standard Governing Copyright InfringementClaims

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