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Blockbuster copyright infringement case thrown out

Many New Mexico moviegoers have probably seen "Avatar," James Cameron's blockbuster movie released in 2009.  A man claiming that his ideas were stolen and used in the movie sued Cameron, Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox for copyright infringement.  Recently, a judge dismissed the case.

The man claimed that floating landmasses such as the ones depicted in the movie were his idea.  The judge ruled that he could not claim a monopoly on such an idea.  In fact, the U.S. District Court Judge presiding over the case pointed out that such an idea has been used for centuries.  In fact, they were used in Jonathan Swift's classic novel "Gulliver's Travels," which was published in 1726.  He also mentioned that Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" used such imagery as well.

These two examples alone demonstrate that the plaintiff in this case was not the first to use such imagery.  Therefore, the man was not able to copyright it.  Case law regarding this issue appears to support the judge's ruling.  For these reasons, the judge determined that the case did not have merit.

Generally, an idea that could easily be construed as being in the public domain cannot be copyrighted.  A New Mexico company or individual who finds themselves as a defendant in a copyright infringement case concerning such an idea or concept has the right to refute the allegations, as Cameron and the production companies did.  It would be beneficial to employ the assistance of someone who understands this area of law in order to make the proper arguments and present evidence documenting that there is no legal basis for copyright protection for the plaintiff.

Source: thewrap.com, "'Avatar' Copyright Infringement Lawsuit Dismissed", Jordan Zakarin, Sept. 18, 2014

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