[Author’s Note: since this post this matter has come to a conclusion about which you can read here.]
Over the last year and a half or so I have been watching the case of Roger Dean (artist for Yes, Asia, and other bands) against James Cameron (filmmaker famous for the movie Avatar and other films). I have written on this subject before which you can read here. If you read my other writing on this subject you will see a variety of pictures relevant to this case. The case between Dean and Cameron began on June 27, 2013 in the United States District Court in the Southern District of New York, Case No.: 1:13-cv-04479-JMF by the filing of a Complaint.
When I last posted an update on this case, which you can see here, James Cameron filed a Motion to Dismiss against Roger Dean’s above-mentioned complaint sounding in copyright infringement. Specifically, Mr. Dean believes Mr. Cameron misappropriated his images in making the film Avatar in violation of his copyright. On September 17, 2014, the Judge who heard this case granted Mr. Cameron’s Motion to Dismiss and dismissed Mr. Dean’s complaint. You can read the judge’s decision in this case here: roger dean order.9-19-14 Mr. Dean, of course, has the right to appeal this dismissal and, considering the money involved, I would be surprised if no appeal is taken. If he does appeal, I will report on it here.
For those who do not understand the legal process, when someone (a plaintiff) files a complaint (i.e.: a law suit) against a another (a defendant) in court, a sued defendant has a right, at the proper time, to file a motion to dismiss (as Mr. Cameron did) against that complaint. To put it simply, a motion to dismiss asks the Court to look at the claims made by the plaintiff, the legal defenses made by the defendant, and the evidence available, and make a decision as to whether, more or less, that plaintiff could, regardless of the odds against it, win the case. If the court believes that the plaintiff presents no facts or legal arguments that, regardless of the odds, could win, it grants the motion to dismiss. In this case, the Court granted Mr. Cameron’s motion by ruling that Mr. Dean’s case simply could not legally win. Again, if you want to read the decision more closely, click here: roger dean order.9-19-14
I have to concede that my areas of law practice do not include intellectual property, copyright, or patents, so I cannot speak with specific knowledge of the areas of law in particular. Upon briefly reviewing the Court’s decision, it appears he ruled against Mr. Dean for a handful of reasons. First, Mr. Dean raised examples of copyright infringement in places other than the movie Avatar which he were not relevant to the suit, therefore the Court did not consider them. Second, the Court believed Mr. Dean manipulated images (by, for example, cropping, rotating, &c.) in order to make the alleged infringement appear worse or more prominent, which the Court would not consider either. Third, as you can see from the Court’s decision (here: roger dean order.9-19-14), in order to win a copyright infringement case one must meet a very high burden. Copyright infringement does not include the use of an idea (as opposed to the expression of an idea), things in the public domain, or mere similarity. Mr. Dean had to show that Mr. Cameron not only copied his work but copied the parts of his work that are protected by copyrights. The Court did not believe things like floating, flying reptiles, rock formations, or flora can be copyrighted as Mr. Dean suggests. Further, the Court believed that the mere similarity between Mr. Dean’s work and Mr. Cameron’s work did not rise to the level of copying. Finally, the Court did not think that the average lay observer would believe Mr. Cameron copied Mr. Dean’s work. The Court noted that simply being inspired by someone else’s work, and creating work clearly in that vein, is not copyright infringement.
The Court expanded upon all of its points in rendering its decision in much more detail that I have provided above and I invite all of my readers to look at the Court’s decision themselves in order to reach their own conclusions; again you can see the decision here: roger dean order.9-19-14
I realize that many of my readers are big Yes fans and/or Roger Dean fans and/or progressive rock fans and, on an emotional level, really wanted Mr. Dean to win this case; I did too, but you have to remember that the Court is tasked with rendering decisions based on the law and the law only. We will see how this case turns out and whether an appeal is taken. Until then, you can read more about this case here.