There were whispers and rumors about it before, but now James Cameron has actually been sued for stealing the idea for Avatar. TheWrap reports that Eric Ryder claims that he had an informal agreement with Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment to adapt his story “KRZ 2068” into a film. Ryder says he worked for two years on his project when Lightstorm told him to stop because there would be no audience for it. Imagine his surprise when a film that he alleges is almost exactly the same as his own became a worldwide multibillion dollar blockbuster.
There are definitely similarities between the story and movie Ryder says he was working on and Avatar. According to the lawsuit, his story was an “environmentally themed 3-D epic about a corporation’s colonization and plundering of a distant moon’s lush and wondrous natural setting.” Moreover, the corporation that brings the protagonist to this luscious place was to be a mining company. And the 3D aspects were not just to be tacked on, but integral to the feel of the story. Lightstorm says that Cameron passed around a scriptment for Avatar before they entered into the agreement wih Ryder, but Ryder says it isn’t so. His lawsuit claims Lightstorm only went forward with Avatar after telling him to stop working on his film and used so many elements from his film that it violates that agreement.
Now, obviously, Ryder could just be tryin to cash in on Avatar‘s success. It’s not unheard of for Hollywood studios and production companies to be sued for “idea theft” and copyright infringement, but sometimes those suits do have pretty good grounds (see the case of The Matrix and ‘The Third Eye’). The case will likely take the path of most such suits and settle out of court but, if it doesn’t, it might be interesting to see how the case affects production of Avatar‘s sequels.