Harlan Ellison claims Justin Timberlake's In Time rips him off

Contributed by
Dec 15, 2012

The groundbreaking, award-winning science fiction godfather is suing Fox to prevent the release of Andrew Niccol's sci-fi thriller, claiming that too much is too similar to his own "Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman."

And Ellison doesn't just want to get paid for what he sees as copyright infringement—he wants to stop In Time's Oct. 28 release and force New Regency and Fox (the producer and distributor, respectively) to burn every copy of the film.

In a complaint filed yesterday, Ellison claims that Niccol's film is based on his 1965 work, itself "one of the most famous and widely published science fiction short stories of all time." And, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the suit claims that both stories are about a ...

"dystopian corporate future in which everyone is allotted a specific amount of time to live." In both works, government authorities known as a "Timekeeper" track the precise amount of time each citizen has left. ... The complaint goes on to list similarities in the features of the universe as well as the plot surfaces—the manipulation of time an individual can live, the type of death experienced by those whose time runs out, rebellion by story protagonists, and so forth.

Ellison has reportedly been fending off Hollywood interest in "Repent, Harlequin" for years but recently allowed "a third party" to adapt it into screenplay form, hoping to sell it—and In Time jeopardizes that potential.

Most copyright infringement lawsuits get dismissed from court, but given Ellison's standing, the pervasiveness of the work itself, and the fact that Ellison has sued on similar grounds before with positive results—-The Terminator was given a "with acknowledgement to the works of Harlan Ellison" credit after the author sued, claiming that James Cameron ripped off Ellison's Outer Limits episodes "Soldier" and "Demon With a Glass Hand"—it's entirely possible this won't go away anytime soon.

(via The Hollywood Reporter)

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