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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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