Netflix and Adam McKay have been sued on claims of copyright infringement by an author who claims that the filmmaker’s 2021 climate change satire “Don’t Look Up” took its premise and plot from a self-published novel the author wrote nine years prior.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday and obtained by TheWrap, names Louisiana author William Collier as the plaintiff, with McKay, his production company Hyperobject Industries, and Netflix as the defendants.
In the suit, Collier’s attorney points out significant similarities in the plot and characterization of “Don’t Look Up” and Collier’s novel “Stanley’s Comet.” The suit alleges that both the book and film are based around a plot where a low-level scientist warns the government of an asteroid on a collision course for Earth, only for his warnings to be dismissed by officials more concerned about the political backlash while the scientist becomes a famous figure whose warnings sharply divide the masses.
As supporting evidence, the lawsuit includes analysis of “Stanley’s Comet” and “Don’t Look Up” by USC comparative literature professor David Roman, who writes that the two works not only share strong similarities in their plot points but also in their themes and satirical tone.
“The movie, like the novel, makes a strong political critique of the media, the government, and the cultural elite by showcasing their shallowness and reliance on popular opinion polls and social media algorithms,” Roman wrote. “McKay’s film is also full of satire and humor and — like Stanley’s Comet — moves toward the absurd. In each case, the irony drives the humor and the social critique and does so in the same style and method.”
Collier alleges in the suit that prior to his self-publication of “Stanley’s Comet,” he sent a copy of the book in 2007 to Adrienne Metz, an executive assistant at Jimmy Miller Entertainment, a company run by McKay’s former manager and co-producer Jimmy Miller. Miller served as McKay’s manager until 2015. The novel was sent to Metz under the understanding that it would be submitted for potential sale considerations.
The suit reads that Collier, based on the information and belief that Metz entered his novel into the consideration process, the book would have been circulated through Jimmy Miller Entertainment and its parent company Mosaic Media Group to Jimmy Miller and to McKay.
“Since Stanley’s Comet was received by McKay’s manager, custom and practice in the entertainment industry dictates that this constitutes receipt by McKay,” the lawsuit reads. “Furthermore, upon information and belief, the Novel was transmitted via courier, email or hand-delivery (or via other means) to McKay himself.”
TheWrap has reached out to Netflix and McKay’s representatives for comment.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.