I bet James Cameron had gone through most of his life so smugly, thinking, “None of my films have gone through endless bouts with people who think I’ve infringed upon their intellectual property.” That smug James Cameron.
We don’t really need much of an introduction to this, as Cameron has seen lawsuit upon lawsuit over the original ideas behind his $2.7 billion-earning behemoth Avatar. The difference with this story is that the person who’s suing him, longtime album and video game cover artist Roger Dean, isn’t interested in where Cameron got his plotlines from. Dean is calling the director out for ripping off the dreamy sci-fi imagery that he’s become known for over the past 40 years. His legitimacy in the industry does give him a leg up over past plaintiffs, but there’s still some skepticism clouding our judgment. Especially since he’s suing for $50 million, claiming copyright infringement, breach of implied contact, unfair competition, and unjust enrichment. Sheesh.
Given I only know you guys are interested in sci-fi and science, I’m not sure how you feel about the seminal prog rock bands Yes and Asia, or the ’70s hard rock band Uriah Heep, but Dean has designed covers for all of them. (He’s actually responsible for most, if not all, of Yes’ albums.) And as you can see from some of the pictures below, the guy is good at drawing colorful and imaginative landscapes and animals. As are a lot of people in the sci-fi community. I suppose if we knew exactly what images Dean was using in the lawsuit (which you can read more about here, thanks to Deadline), this might not seem like another mindless attack on Cameron’s work.
Though when you start throwing around sentences like, “The similarities of each such work are substantial, continuing, and direct so as to rule out any accidental copying or similarity in scenes common to the genre,” then you’ve probably got a good case. Here are a few of Dean’s works.
He’s got dozens more that all share the same vibrant shift from the reality we’re used to. But stick a monster front and center and it looks like the covers of hundreds of cheesy sci-fi novels from 50 years ago, so who’s to say Dean wasn’t inspired the same way Cameron might have been? I’m not saying that at all, for the record.
Not only does Dean want the moolah, he wants “an injunction, a full accounting and a court order to be posted online and elsewhere that the defendants ripped off his work.” And not just for the original movie. Dean also calls out any future projects that may in some way borrow from the plagiarized images, such as Cameron’s planned sequels and Walt Disney World themed attractions. That’s kind of bizarre, but we’re no judge, jury, or executioner. I don’t think the latter is needed in this case.
Do you guys think Dean has a case?