James Cameron Prevails in ‘Avatar’ Plagiarism Suit

Judge rules James Cameron developed ideas for "Avatar" independently

Last Updated: February 5, 2013 @ 10:06 AM

A lawsuit claiming that James Cameron stole another artist's ideas for his 2009 blockbuster "Avatar" has been dismissed by a California federal court judge.

The director's motion for summary judgment against visual effects artist Gerald Morawski was granted by Judge Margaret Morrow, who dismissed the case Tuesday, saying, "Clear, undisputed evidence shows Cameron independently created Avatar and did not use Morawski's ideas."

“It is a sad reality of our business that whenever there is a successful film, people come out of the woodwork claiming that their ideas were used," Cameron said in a statement. "'Avatar' was my most personal film, drawing upon themes and concepts that I had been exploring for decades. I am grateful that the Court saw through the blatant falsity of Mr. Morawski’s claim."

The source of the conflict dates back more than 20 years, to when Morawski said he sold concept art for a film adaptation of a William Gibson short story to Cameron. It was at that point that he claimed that he first gave the director the idea for a film about a native tribe that lives in harmony with the rainforest, but is forced to fight off a mining company.  

He said before pitching Cameron the project, entitled "Guardians of Eden," he entered into an agreement stating that he would retain exclusive rights to his ideas. He said that pact was ignored and that the film pilfered much of his work.

In his suit, he claimed he was entitled to lost profits and damages and alleged breach of contract against Cameron.

Peter Ross, an attorney for Morawski, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A spokesman for 20th Century Fox, which produced the film, announced that Cameron and his production company Lightstorm Entertainment had been victorious.

In a 45-page declaration, Cameron detailed how he came up with the concept for the film. He said he has been kicking around ideas since he was a child and even used prototypes of characters, such as Giovanni Ribisi's rapacious mining executive, in earlier films like "Aliens." In that instance, corporate greed was personified by Paul Reiser.

"Avatar" grossed over $2.7 billion at the box office and has inspired a spate of lawsuits about its origins. The director has been sued three separate times by people claiming they were responsible for the idea for the futuristic adventure film, according to the Hollywood Reporter.