Netflix and the creators of “Stranger Things,” Matt and Ross Duffer, are being sued by a company that says the idea for the hit show was stolen from a screenplay called “Totem.”
According to the lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in California federal court, Irish Rover Entertainment says that “Stranger Things” copies a lot from “Totem,” a screenplay written by Jeffrey Kennedy, including “plot, sequence, characters, theme, dialogue, mood, and setting, as well as copyrighted concept art.”
The lawsuit says the two projects are connected by a man named Aaron Sims, who worked closely with Kennedy during its development. Sims, the lawsuit says, was hired to create the concept art for the first two seasons of “Stranger Things.”
Kennedy says he got the idea for “Totem” after the death of a childhood friend, Clint Osthimer, who suffered from epilepsy. “During their childhood together in rural Indiana,” the lawsuit reads, “Osthimer and Kennedy dealt with the constant threat of Osthimer’s ‘personal demon,’ epilepsy, which created ‘lightning showers’ in his brain. These lightning showers or seizures would send him to an alternate supernatural plane where the demon resided.”
The lawsuit tries to paint many similarities between “Totem” and “Stranger Things.” In one example, the lawsuit says:
In “Totem,” one of the characters is a little girl named Kimimela or “Kimi” for short who has supernatural powers. Kimimela helps her friends find the portal gate to an alternate supernatural plane and helps them battle the plane’s inhabitants; a dark spirit named Azrael and his army of Blackwolf.
By comparison, the lawsuit describes “Stranger Things” by saying:
In “Stranger Things,” one of the characters is a little girl name Eleven or “El” for short who has supernatural powers. Eleven helps her friends find the portal gate to an alternate supernatural plane and helps them battle the plane’s inhabitants; a Shadow Monster and his army of Demogorgon.
Irish Rover Entertainment is suing for copyright infringement and seeking unspecified damages. A representative for Netflix told TheWrap, “Mr. Kennedy has been peddling these far-fetched conspiracy theories for years, even though Netflix has repeatedly explained to him that The Duffer Brothers had never heard of him or his unpublished script until he began threatening to sue them. After we refused to give in to his demands for a payoff, he filed this baseless lawsuit. There is no shortage of people who would like to claim credit for creating ‘Stranger Things.’ But the truth is the show was independently conceived by The Duffer Brothers, and is the result of their creativity and hard work.”
A similar lawsuit was filed in 2018 by a man named Charles Kessler, who alleged that the idea for “Stranger Things” came from him. He said he pitched the idea to the Duffer brothers at a 2014 Tribeca Film Festival party.
Kessler dropped his lawsuit the day before it was set to go to trial.
Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.