A local author named Cynthia J. Clay recently filed a copyright infringement lawsuit alleging that the motion picture Avatar infringes her novel, entitled Zollocco: A Novel of Another Universe.  The complaint, which was filed in the Southern District of Florida federal court, alleges instances of “strikingly similar” copying of portions of the novel, and claims that the name of the novel, Zollocco, was used as a war chant by principal characters in a critical scene in the movie (allegedly “Zha-lah-coooh”). 

The Defendants in the lawsuit include James Cameron and Twentieth Century Fox.  As with any lawsuit alleging copyright infringement, the issues to be determined will include: (1) the Defendants’ access to the novel; and (2) the degree of similarity between the accused work and the copyrighted work (“substantial similarity” if access can be proven, otherwise the alleged infringing work must be “strikingly similar”).  

The complaint offers just a few examples of the copying found in the screenplay for the film, which are alleged to be “strikingly similar” to portions of the 242-page novel, including the following:  

  • “Sky people can not learn.  You do not See.” pg. 41, Avatar.       

              “It is impossible to commune with most humans,” pg. 8, Zollocco. 

  • “You go back.” pg. 42, Avatar.

              “Get back in your can! . . . Go back to your own kind!”  pg. 8, Zollocco.

  • “His alien smell fills my nose.” pg. 45, Avatar.

             “Beat it, you smelly old human!” pg. 8, Zollocco. 

In light of these examples, and the few others that are referenced in the complaint, it is anticipated that it will be met with an early motion to dismiss the action.  The case has been assigned to the Honorable Adalberto Jordan, and seeks an injunction and award based on the Defendants’ profits.  According to reports, the film Avatar has grossed over $2.7 billion around the world to date.