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Disney Settles ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ Copyright Suit With Writers Who Claimed Film Franchise Was Their Idea

Writers Arthur Lee Alfred II and E. Ezequiel Martinez Jr. claimed the Johnny Depp films copied from their original spec script

Disney on Wednesday settled a copyright lawsuit from 2017 that alleged that the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies infringed upon the plaintiffs’ copyrighted original spec script.

Writers Arthur Lee Alfred II and E. Ezequiel Martinez Jr. along with their producer Tova Laiter in 2017 claimed in a federal court in Colorado that Disney committed “willful infringement of Plaintiff’s original copyrighted expression of themes, settings, dialogue, characters, plot. mood [and] sequence of events contained in an original spec screenplay entitled ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’”

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed. Copyright claims against successful Hollywood projects are common, but judgments and settlements are rare.

Disney and an attorney for Alfred and Martinez did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The two writers back in 2017 said that Laiter presented the screenplay to Disney executive Brigham Taylor in August 2000 suggesting the idea of a film based on the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disney World and Disneyland. At the time, Taylor “expressly stated” to Laiter that Disney “had no treatment or script” based on the ride.

Taylor later said that the “Pirates” screenplay was being passed on, according to the suit, which adds that the screenplay wasn’t returned until more than two years later, at which point “Defendants were already in production on the first ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ film.” It went on to say that the first “Pirates” movie from 2003, “The Curse of the Black Pearl,” contained similarities to the spec script and that those similarities continued throughout the run of the franchise.

“Themes, settings, plot, several characters, and dialogues from The Screenplay, some practically verbatim, have been copied by the Defendants into ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,’ and in every subsequent sequel, including the 2017 release of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales,” the suit stated.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.