“Alien v. Predator” Doesn’t Infringe Screenplay About the Freemasons’ Search for Atlantis

Originally published on April 7, 2011 on EntertainmentLitigation.com

In what must be one of the most entertaining opinions ever to appear in a Federal Reporter, Judge Denny Chin of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, sitting by designation in the Southern District of New York, granted summary judgment in favor of Twentieth Century Fox who was sued by an individual who claimed that a screenplay he wrote entitled  “The Lost Continent” was infringed in Fox’s “Alien v. Predator” film.

“The Lost Continent” tells the story of “a government-led expedition to the Antarctic to investigate a mysterious structure below the frozen surface, a secret plan by a group called the Freemasons to recover a powerful crystal from the ancient city of Atlantis, and attacks by stone gargoyles come-to-life.”  The plaintiff claimed that Fox and the other defendants received a copy of the screenplay in 1997 and 1998–through somewhat tortured chains of custody–and that the defendants must have copied the screenplay when they wrote and produced “Alien v. Predator,” which was released in 2004. The plaintiff filed suit in 2008.

Judge Chin found that there was no access, no evidence of probative similarity, and that no reasonable jury could conclude that “The Lost Continent” and “Alien v. Predator” were substantially similar, and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant.  Judge Chin’s opinion is spot-on; one of the best I’ve seen in cases with analogous fact patterns. The opinion is lengthy, but worth a read.