Could Disney have done a little plundering of its own when coming up with the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie franchise?
The company has been hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit by a man who claims that he came up with numerous elements of the hugely successful "Pirates" film series, including characters, supernatural elements, storylines, plots, themes, sequence structures and screenplay elements, according to court documents obtained by TheWrap.
In the suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Florida on Tuesday, Florida resident Royce Mathew claims that Disney infringed on a story that Mathew had written, and fraudulently procured a settlement from him when a previous lawsuit was filed.
In addition to the Walt Disney Co. and Walt Disney Pictures, the suit lists numerous other defendants, including "Pirates of the Caribbean" producer Jerry Bruckheimer.
Mathew alleges that he created numerous supernatural stories in the late '80s and early '90s, including a "Supernatural Pirate Story," along with a related Supernatural Pirate Movie.
Mathew claims that he provided Disney with copies of his creations over a period from 1991 to 1995, both through direct meetings and the Creative Artists Agency and William Morris Agency, but Disney subsequently credited "Pirates of the Caribbean" writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio with the creation of those works.
Though Mathew doesn't list specific damages in the suit, the complaint claims that Mathew "is entitled, inter alia, to the billions of dollars that Disney has generated, or allowed others to generate, from the defendants' unauthorized use and exploitation" of Mathew's works.
Disney has not yet responded to TheWrap's request for comment.
Mathew claims that he initiated a copyright infringement action against Disney in 2006, but that the defendants "fraudulently procured" a settlement, prompting him to execute a release agreement in mid-2007.
Mathew is seeking a rescission of the earlier release agreement. However, his suit argues, even if a rescission isn't granted, he's still entitled to enforce his copyright claims after mid-2007. (The "Pirates" movie franchise is still very much a going concern; as reported by TheWrap on Wednesday, Disney has tapped "Kon-Tiki" directors Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg to helm the fifth installment of the series.)
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.