Guy who used to work for James Cameron sues for Avatar idea theft

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Dec 16, 2012

We made peace a while ago with the fact that James Cameron's Avatar doesn't exactly have the most original plot. (Remember FernGully?) But we weren't planning on taking him to court over it. Now a guy who used to work for Cameron is suing for a piece of the highest-grossing movie of all time, claiming he had the idea (and wrote it down) more than a decade ago.

Eric Ryder, a former employee of Cameron's company Lightstorm, filed suit in Los Angeles this week with the claim that his story, K.R.Z. 2068, is where Cameron got the idea for his little blue aliens movie. Ryder developed the story in 1999, along with treatments, character designs, 3-D images and photos.

We haven't seen any of that stuff, but Ryder says his movie was an "environmentally-themed 3-D epic about a corporation's colonization and plundering of a distant moon's lush and wondrous natural setting." That's pretty Avatar-y, right? But wait, there's more. Ryder claims his movie also included a "corporation spy" and "anthropomorphic, organically created beings populating that moon." And if that weren't similar enough to Avatar, Ryder claims that his corporate spy would have begun a relationship with one of the beings on the moon, and would have gone on to lead a revolt against the corporation mining the moon.

Cameron and his people haven't commented yet, but it's common knowledge that he was working on the concept for Avatar well before 1999, back in the days of Titanic, and even Ryder's suit acknowledges that. This isn't the first time Cameron has been sued by someone over Avatar, but it is the first time a former employee has been at the other end of the court case, so that could mean this one actually holds weight.

But wait, if this guy had basically the same idea, and he worked for Cameron, why didn't they just merge their concepts? Couldn't they have added him as a producer or given him a story credit? Ryder says he was told by Lightstorm in 2002 that his movie would never get made because no one would go see an environmentally themed film. Then Avatar racked up nearly $3 billion worldwide.

So is this another case of someone trying to capitalize on Cameron's massive Avatar revenues, or someone who got pushed out of the Avatar creative process because James Cameron really is that egomaniacal?

(via The Hollywood Reporter)