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Archive for the category “Musings: Music – Roger Dean and Avatar”

Roger Dean v. James Cameron; the Avatar Litigation Roundup

If you have been watching the news, or following this blog, you may know that there was a U.S. Federal Court case between Roger Dean (the cover artist for Yes, Asia, and other bands) and filmmaker James Cameron (famous for Avatar, Titanic, Aliens, and The Terminator).  Roger Dean sued James Cameron claiming Cameron swiped Dean’s images and concepts for his record breaking blockbuster film Avatar.  I have posted extensively on the subject as I am a rabid Yes and Roger Dean fan.

As I posted a while back, the case has now come to a close.  Now that the matter is over, I thought it would be helpful to collate all of my posts on the subject so you can see the progression of the case.  Unfortunately, Roger Dean did not come out on the winning end of the case and, hopefully, the posts below can sufficiently explain what happened and why the case wound up the way it did.

Here you go:

Podcast: Two Ways in Which Bands are Businesses and Intellectual Property and Contract Mistakes Sink Them (featuring James W. Cushing, Esquire!)

Anthony Verna, Esquire, (of Kravitz & Verna), a reputable copyright lawyer in New York, is the host of a podcast called The Law and Business Podcast (you can find it here).  Back on September 25, 2014 he had me on as a guest on his podcast to talk about the litigation between Yes artist Roger Dean against Avatar filmmaker James Cameron regarding Cameron’s alleged misappropriation of Dean’s images in Avatar.  You can hear that podcast here.  You can read more about Dean v. Cameron here.

Well, on October 20, 2014 Mr. Verna had be back on as his guest on his podcast (clearly he has questionable sanity!) to discuss band names and the legalities surrounding who owns the names, how those names can be used, and how one can be better prepared for the potential legalities of being a member of a band.  Notably, because I was the guest on this show, the examples and practical applications of the law centered heavily on bands like Yes and Asia, their line-up changes, and the legal issues they have had using their band names over the years.

You can listen to (and hopefully enjoy!) the podcast here!

Dean v. Cameron: Dean Decides to Leave It

This is what would seem to be my final update regarding the legal matter between Yes cover artist Roger Dean against filmmaker James Cameron regarding the alleged misappropriated use Dean’s artwork in Cameron’s movie Avatar.  You can see all of my posts on this subject here, the court filings on this matter here, a series of side-by-side photographs of Dean’s artwork and the movie here, the final Court judgment here, and a great podcast explaining the Court’s legal decision here.

Well, as I reported on September 19, 2014, the Court, unfortunately for Roger Dean and his fans, ruled against him and in favor of James Cameron ruling, in essence, that Cameron did not misappropriate Dean’s images in the movie Avatar.  Dean had the opportunity to appeal the Court’s decision within a specific time as laid out by the Rules of Civil Procedure.  I looked at the Court docket this morning to check on the status of the case and whether Dean took an appeal of the adverse ruling noted above.  As it turns out, on September 30, 2014, a Stipulation and Order was filed wherein Dean waived his right to an appeal and pursuit of any damages or claims against Cameron regarding the issues raised in his complaint against Cameron and/or the movie Avatar in exchange for Cameron not pursuing repayment of his attorneys’ fees from Dean.  This Stipulation and Order serves to conclude the case in its entirety.  The case of Dean v. Cameron is officially over.

You can read the Stipulation and Order here:  dean stipulation and order.10-20-14

In case you are not a Yes fan or do not like puns, the title of this post refers to Yes’ hit song “Leave It.”

Dean v. Cameron Copyright Law Podcast Featuring James W. Cushing!

As most of my readers know, I have been following the copyright case pitting Roger Dean, the artist for the progressive rock band Yes (and other bands) against James Cameron, the creator of the movie Avatar and  other films (the case is in the United States District Court in the Southern District of New York and assigned the case number 1:13-cv-04479-JMF).  I have written on this subject before which you can read here.

The last time I posted on this issue, which you can see here, I reported that Mr. Dean’s case against Mr. Cameron was dismissed by the Court pursuant to a Motion to Dismiss filed by Mr. Cameron.  When I shared this news with my Yes-fan cohorts across the internet, there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth over what they believed to be the injustice of the court system in dismissing Mr. Dean’s claims.  They believe, much like Mr. Dean, me, and many others, that the look of Avatar clearly seems more than inspired by the look of Mr. Dean’s art (you can see side-by-side pictures of Avatar and Mr. Dean’s work here to make up your own mind).

I am not a copyright lawyer, so while I understand some of the legal issues presented in Mr. Dean’s case, some of it is a little beyond my areas of practice and my scope of knowledge.  As it happens, one of my friends, Anthony Verna, Esquire, (of Kravitz & Verna) is a reputable copyright lawyer in New York where Mr. Dean’s case was filed.  Mr. Verna is also the host of a copyright law podcast called Law and Business and took the time to look at the court documents associated with Mr. Dean’s case to share his views and shed some light on them in a podcast recorded on September 25, 2014.  Not only that, Mr. Verna was nice enough to include me in that podcast, I guess as a resident Yes-and-Roger-Dean-fan-lawyer!  I have never done a podcast before, and I have to say that it was a lot of fun and I hope I am invited to do it again!

As I said above, the name of the podcast is Law and Business and you can find the main podcast site here.  The podcast featuring me discussing Mr. Dean’s case against Mr. Cameron can be found here.  Happy Listening!

Court Says “No” To Artist for the Band Yes

[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.

5/14 Update on Roger Dean v. James Cameron

[Author’s Note: since this post this matter has come to a conclusion about which you can read here.]

As most of my readers know, I am a huge Yes (the band) fan – you can find out more about Yes here – and, therefore, by definition a fan of Roger Dean (the painter/artist) as he designed their famous logo (see here for examples), painted most of their album covers (see here and here for examples), and designed their otherworldly live stage sets (see here for examples).  You can learn more about Roger Dean here.

If you have been watching the news, or following this blog, there is a U.S. Federal Court case between Roger Dean and filmmaker James Cameron (famous for Avatar, Titanic, Aliens, and The Terminator).  Roger Dean sued James Cameron claiming Cameron swiped Dean’s images and concepts for his record breaking blockbuster film Avatar.  You can find my previous posts on this subject here and here.  Those posts basically sum up the dispute in the case and show you some examples of Dean’s art compared to images from Avatar.

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.  Roger Dean amended the Complaint on Septemnber 30, 2013.  Dean sued the following people: James Cameron, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, Dune Entertainment III, LLC, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, Lightstorm Entertainment, and Ingenious Film Partners 2, LLP.  On September 11, 2013, Dune Entertainment III LLC and Ingenious Film Partners 2 LLP were terminated from the case.  On November 14, 2013, the remaining Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss Dean’s Amended Complaint and, in response to the Motion, responses and counter responses have been filed.  The Motion to Dismiss remains outstanding as of this writing (May 8, 2014).

If you are interested in viewing the docket and reading the various pleadings and motions filed so far, you can view them below; I did not include them all (there are many entries on the docket).  I only included the salient ones that have direct bearing on the claims made in the case.

dean v cameron – docket

dean v cameron – complaint

dean v cameron – voluntary dismissal 1

dean v cameron – voluntary dismissal 2

dean v cameron – amended complaint

dean v cameron – order to amend again

dean v cameron – motion to dismiss

dean v cameron – memorandum in support of motion to dismiss

dean v cameron – dean’s response to motion to dismiss

dean v cameron – defendant’s reply

I will  keep you updated as information becomes available.

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On May 12, 2014 I discovered that this post was referred to by Henry Potts on his Yes news site which can be found here.  My inclusion on Mr. Potts’ website is something of an accomplishment for my Yes fandom!  Thanks Henry!

There has been an update in this case which you can read here.

Roger Dean and Avatar Revisited: Copyright Infringement? (with images!)

[Author’s Note: since this post this matter has come to a conclusion about which you can read here.]

A couple of weeks back I posted a Musing regarding Roger Dean’s lawsuit against James Cameron.  You can read the post here.  Since that time I have learned that the suit was filed in Federal Court, specifically the New York Southern District Court, with the case number 1:13-cv-04479-JMF.  The Judge assigned to the case is Jesse M. Furman.  Furthermore, the Defendants include also 20th Century Fox Film, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Dune Entertainment, Lightstorm, and Ingenious Film Partners 2.  Finally, as a big Yes fan I cannot believe I did not ready know this, but “Roger” is Dean’s middle name; according to the Court docket, Roger Dean’s first name is “William”!

As I posted before, I will be keeping an eye on this case as it proceeds and will post relevant updates when they happen.  In the meantime, I found a website which had a bunch of images side-by-side which really showed, I think, how much James Cameron, at the very least, was “inspired” by Dean in making the movie Avatar, although some, notably Roger Dean, would say (though possibly in not these words) that these images show how much Cameron ripped off Dean’s images and concepts when making Avatar.

According to the Court’s docket, Dean sued Cameron under the “copyright infringement” umbrella.  Check out the images below (Dean’s and Cameron’s are intermixed; can you tell which is which?) and feel free to post your comments on whether you think Dean has at least a decent intellectual property case against Cameron.


A Prog Rock law suit? Roger Dean says “Yes!”

[Author’s Note: since this post this matter has come to a conclusion about which you can read here.]

The odds are that you have seen the 2009 James Cameron movie Avatar as it is, I understand, the highest grossing movie of all time.  Well, for progressive rock fans the world over, especially fans of the premier prog-rock band Yes, who saw the film, there were things that were surprisingly familiar with the imagery and graphics in it.  As it happens, Roger Dean, the cover artist for prog-rock bands like Yes, Asia, Uriah Heep, and Birdsongs of the Messazoic (among others), thought so as well!  Dean thought the images were so similar that he has filed an intellectual property law suit against James Cameron for, more-or-less, stealing his images for the movie.

I bumped into Dean at the August 3, 2013 Yestival and attempted to ask him about the law suit.  Unfortunately he said that he was not at liberty to talk about it at this time, but I will be following the case closely and hopefully, at a future prog-rock festival, Dean will be a little more forthcoming.  Be sure to check this blog in the future for any updates on this case.

I did notice that at Dean’s art gallery at the Yestival, he showcased the material that seemed most Avatar-like and some of the people browsing around did comment on the similarity between the paintings and the movie.  Coincidence?  Who knows.  Does this prove Dean’s point?  Maybe.

This is not the first time that Dean’s work has been used in film.  The Star Wars prequel trilogy made subtle use of Dean’s imagery and the sci-fi spoof movie Galaxy Quest completely ripped off Dean’s work onYessongs (this has been confirmed on the IMDB trivia site here): compare for yourself, click here for the Yessongs image and here for the Galaxy Quest image.  The difference, it would appear, is that these other film received Dean’s permission to use the images and/or use his images as direct inspiration.  Cameron and his team of movie makers evidently did not do this.

What do you think?  Do the images in Avatar look so much like Dean’s images to warrant the law suit?  Here are some examples for you to check out:

From the movie:










Some of Dean’s work:




















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