This site will work and look better in a browser that supports web standards, but it is accessible to any browser or Internet device.

Whedonesque - a community weblog about Joss Whedon
"I told you, it's 'Xander' or 'Sergeant Fury'."
11943 members | you are not logged in | 16 April 2014












August 01 2010

Syfy ripping off Amber Benson? It seems that the Syfy channel's upcoming project "Human Relations" bears a suspicious resemblance to Amber Benson and Adam Busch's "Drones."

[ edited by Sunfire on 2010-08-01 03:29 ]

Figures seeing as every time I turn on Syfy I seem to find at least one TV movie that has been ripped off of something out there. ie Transmorphers
I suggest changing the link to Amber's blog post, in which she dares SyFy to air DRONES and let viewers decide for themselves.
@valcos - Syfy did not produce Transmorphers, but I see your point. Execution and presentation of the same idea counts for a lot. It's the Armageddon versus Deep Impact debate all over again. Personally, I'd have to see both properties for myself. Though they may share similar story and plot elements, they could turn out to be vastly different from each other. Also, isn't one a film while the other is a series? Some might think that's not important, but I think it can be.

ETA: Having just read Amber's blog post on the subject, I see that she's pretty much said what I just said, except better. :)

[ edited by kungfubear on 2010-08-01 03:52 ]
My God...If it were just the basic concept alone (like...guy working for a weird corporation realizes it's run by aliens/vampires/robots, whatever) I would say Amber was crazy, despite how much I like her.

But the glaring similarities in their description of the show points to flat-out plagiarism. If it turns out her "conspiracy theory" is correct, here's hoping she, Adam, Ben and Ben get what they deserve. [Isn't it weird how "get what you deserve" always sounds sinister? I didn't mean it that way!]
As she points out, SyFy's press release for their new project is frequently word-for-word the Drones press release from earlier this year.

Perhaps someone at the network felt that, as the film is only a small budget independent movie that isn't even scheduled for release until early 2011, they could act with impunity. If so, that shows not only a lack of ethics, but also a blatant disrespect for independent filmmaking.
Boo SyFy, not cool.
I hope her union can hear the complain. The relevant guild(s) should be asked to evaluate the SyFy pilot vs her movie, and if they find they ripped her off, maybe they'll award her screen credit and a paycheck.
I respect Amber's work very much and there's a bright future there. However, I don't see a case here. Really, the story line is pretty general.

Really hope that Amber catches a break and brings us that smashing story that is so locked up in her mind. We know it's there. Wishing her the best!
That is really low. They didn't even bother to make the press release sound different.
Well, I don't think the specific blurb for DRONES on Amber's blog is its original blurb. I think she wrote that for the blog to show the similarity. I don't see it on Google prior to this.
Her union is not her remedy. If she has one, it's in court.

EDIT: Wow, did anyone read the other shows they announced? I see "Hancock" the TV show, slightly inverted, I see "Galaxy Quest 2: The Fantasy Genre" as a TV show. I see basically TWO of "Firefly", one via "Tome Raider", the other via "Robin Hood".

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2010-08-01 08:52 ]
No, her union is try try again. Must seek originality which she has. I've high hopes she'll succeed.
Wow, did anyone read the other shows they announced? I see "Hancock" the TV show, slightly inverted, I see "Galaxy Quest 2: The Fantasy Genre" as a TV show. I see basically TWO of "Firefly", one via "Tome Raider", the other via "Robin Hood".

You can play that game with anything though, there's nothing new under the sun, particularly in one line precis form (ragtag crew on the run/scraping a living was very far from new when 'Firefly' used it, see for instance "Blake's 7" or Joss' own "Alien: Resurrection"). And when they actually call it "National Treasure meets 'Firefly' ..." in their own blurb (as linked from the other thread) i'd say they're not exactly making an attempt to hide the similarity. And as someone mentions on that thread, i'd say Bruce Campbell has as big a claim as anyone, 'Legendary' sounds extremely similar to his 2007 film "My Name is Bruce".

Well, I don't think the specific blurb for DRONES on Amber's blog is its original blurb. I think she wrote that for the blog to show the similarity. I don't see it on Google prior to this.

The "The Office meets The Day The Earth Stood Still..." part was all over the place from January, dunno about the rest of Amber's description.

Horrible for them if it has been ripped off but there's no case there anyway, you can't copyright plots/ideas/concepts right ?
Exactly! However, it kinda' hurt that you used the "ragtag team" as an example. Well, such is life...

Hey, welcome back!
I can't think of the last time I voluntarily watched anything on Skiffy...oh yes, I started to give them another chance after they canceled "Farscape" and watched "The Dresden Files" which was fun, engaging and not insulting to your intelligence...then they canceled it, too.
But, I have to wait until March 2011 for Drones? Dammit! I feel (I HOPE) that the best will out. I no longer have cable, don't watch "skiffy." Mrelia, just got introduced to Dresden, and then noticed my 12th episode was the last. BLAST!
I used to love the SciFi channel before it became he SyFy channel....
Copyright law protects specific expressions, not ideas. IP law doesn't protect "ideas" -- the closest any of them come is patent, and that is the right to exclude and is the shortest duration because it's the most powerful.

It would be a tough case, and it would depend on how creative SyFy was in changing the details.
It sounds as though "Drones" is being hugely ripped off, but Amber Benson and Adam Busch didn't *write* "Drones," they directed it. They're not in the Directors Guild of America, and even if they were, the DGA wouldn't have jurisdiction over something like this. I think at this point the relevant parties are the copyright holders, who are (if "Drones" follows the filmmaking norms) the producers/financiers, rather than writers Ben Acker & Ben Blacker. It would be up to the producers/financiers if they wanted to pursue copyright issues.
If everyone sued anyone who had a similar idea, then this would be... well, America.

This is a little silly. It's rare enough to find an original idea at all, let alone in a genre like Sci-Fi. Look at fantasy literature. Half of them are LotR-esque. It's the execution that makes the stories different, and I highly doubt there will be much to quibble about when the film airs.

I don't watch SyFy, though, so I don't know. But in a world where an original idea is as rare as a jabberwocky, I don't think SyFy intentionally ripped them off.
And how bad would it be if copyright law DID protect ideas, how few movies and TV shows would there be?

Every superhero movie you see is essentially a rip-off of the same idea. But within that premise (along with most premises ), there are generally countless ways to spin the story.

I haven't seen Drones (so if I peg the nature of the film incorrectly, it's not intentional and it's not my point), but just going by the website synopsis the setup is a guy in a monotonous office (Office Space) who discovers a secret (pretty much half of sci-fi non-sequels ever) and starts a romance amongst all that. That's pretty generic. But from that, you could get a thriller depending on the nature of the secret. Perhaps the secret is worth killing for. Perhaps the secret involves killing. Both of those rip off other movies as well. It could be a flat comedy, but it could be comedy of the Drones variety (with Acker and Blacker I'm guessing it was more silly), or it could be a serious comedy, or maybe even black. Perhaps there's some sort of horror film there a la "Body Snatchers" or maybe even a wierd realist charecter drama if the woman is an alien.

I guess my point is, I HATE calls of plagerism from a premise. Can you technically call something a rip off, I guess. But as I tried to move past fan myopia a long time ago, I guess I'm used to seeing everything I love as the result of selective and creative plagerism. What we see as "original" is often simply a twisted version of someone elses idea.

It's not a bad thing, it's just the nature of writers having existed for thousands of years.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-08-01 18:39 ]
Hmmmm, I don't know. The "original" idea itself isn't exactly entirely original anyways, is it? Since it says in the description itself it is "The Office meets The Day the Earth Stood Still" for cripes sake!
Pat, this is more like that scene in "Coming to America" where John Amos is explaining the difference between his restaurant, McDowell's, and McDonald's. "Our buns have no seeds".

Legally actionable is a long reach, but it's still pretty weak and unoriginal. I mean, this is even less original than "Demons" was next to "Buffy".
Pat, this is more like that scene in "Coming to America" where John Amos is explaining the difference between his restaurant, McDowell's, and McDonald's. "Our buns have no seeds".


If freestanding buildings and business operations lifted straight out of a McDonalds handbook is equivelent to two condesnsed descriptions of a plot line being equal are similar, then yes.

Here's one, "Gotham city is terrorized by a new villian, the Joker, who's obsession with Batman threatens to destroy Gotham."

That movie has been made three times, and other than having similar charecter names, I'd having a hard time saying Burton or Nolan ripped off another movie. Although, again I can point out antecedents if I really want to.

That's just it, descriptions are too narrow and they're meant to allow an executive decide if they want to even consider funding a project or selling advertising. Similar descriptions are going to happen all the time. It's the nature of taking a concept+script+the actors and condensing it into a form you can read and understand in five seconds.

And I'm arguing out of ignorance, I haven't seen either of these projects. I'm just saying we're making too much of this because we like Amber. But we haven't seen this Syfy project yet, and she probably hasn't either. Let's hold off on boycotts and legal action until we actually know something.

But I do agree that it sucks for her and the whole crew of Drones, because regardless I find it depressing enough when I find out something I'm writing has just been released as a movie or been a plotline on a TV show. Let alone, actually producing a movie you think is unique is a hard undertaking, and if you find out that before or right after you release it, something similar is coming out... well that's rough.

[ edited by azzers on 2010-08-01 19:39 ]
Over in her comments section, someone contributed "If you're already a member of the Writers' Guild of America, you can avoid having to sue to get writers' credit and royalties. All you do is register a formal complaint, and they have actual screenwriters judge whether there's plagiarism involved or not."

There's no need for legal action.
Another example of what I mean would be "The Mentalist", and how it's basically a absurdly blatant rip-off of "Psych" (to the extent that the former is openly riffed upon by characters on the latter). Just because it's not an infringement doesn't mean it doesn't smell plagiarized/stolen/copied/unoriginal.

[ edited by KingofCretins on 2010-08-01 20:27 ]
The Lion King ripped off an old anime cartoon called Kimba the White Lion. That was quite depressing finding out about that one, having liked The Lion King when it came out. Pretty hard to sue Disney though.

We can only really judge Human Relations after we've seen it (not that I ever will).
A copyright is not the same as credit. A copy right does not mean you make money. A copyright is about control. Being involved in the arts myself, I've been thinking a lot about the copyright model and watching the various debates and opinion slinging. (I've come to no conclusions yet--I personally need more info.)

So just to throw another stone in the pond... here's something that I found interesting food for thought:

A TED talk given by Johanna Blakley concerning copyrights and the benefits the fashion industry receives from having no copyrights: Lessons from fashion's free culture..
On the other hand, as an author, copyright is critically important to my ability to both protect what I conceive and write, and make a profit from it.
That's actually a great link Breathes, thanks for that.

I do have some concerns about transferring an intellectual model with something like a fashion design, which can be conceived and executed very quickly with something that would require more time to execute.

Another point she glosses over in her gross sales chart is that clothes, food, and furniture would often qualify as needs that people must purchase where to people other than myself, music, books, and movies would qualify as luxury items. In other words, gross sales may have nothing to do with innovation.

There's a part of me that really likes the idea of no copyright. But there's the realist in me that says authors could entirely make a name for themselves by finding no-name author's good books, changing a few things and releasing them with their names instead. Especially since many people will buy books based on author's names anyway.
Heh, heh! First, thank you so much for making me laugh, I so miss that. A good chuckle is always good for the spirit and soul!

Second, would like to see some encouragement towards Amber, she's an insanely talented person. Her ship will come in soon.
And how bad would it be if copyright law DID protect ideas, how few movies and TV shows would there be?

Very bad. This is basically happening in software (only with patents rather than copyright) whereby it's now possible to patent algorithms rather than specific implementations (on the same page as the fashion talk is a talk by Larry Lessig that, i'd imagine, will address exactly this). The thing being, the space of solutions to specific problems isn't infinite so solving some problems means either infringing patents (because someone else, probably working for a large corporation with deep pockets for litigation, has already solved the problem) OR deliberately "solving" a problem sub-optimally in order to not infringe. Long term, it'll stifle innovation and choice for the end user and place control of an essential aspect of modern life in the hands of a few.

Not had a chance to check out that linked TED talk but one aspect that occurs to me is that with fashion, the thing itself has intrinsic value i.e. people buy the clothes as well as the design and with the exception of a small number of people who implement designs themselves (i.e. make their own clothes) that'll always be the case (well, until replicators come along anyway ;) so there'll always be money flowing into the system somewhere. With books/films/music that's only the case once i.e. once one copy exists, multiple copies can exist (and be distributed) for basically zero cost, the thing itself (book/CD/DVD) has a much lower intrinsic value compared to the costs (in time and money) of production.

Another example of what I mean would be "The Mentalist", and how it's basically a absurdly blatant rip-off of "Psych" (to the extent that the former is openly riffed upon by characters on the latter).

That's actually a great example of how something can sound superficially similar and yet be totally different in implementation and detail IMO (Jane explicitly doesn't pretend to be psychic, his childhood back-story/father features, IIRC, once rather than most episodes with 'Psych', the tone of 'The Mentalist' is much more serious, he openly works for the police etc. So the commonalities boil down to the pretence at psychic powers - which, as I say, doesn't apply to 'The Mentalist' - and "observation as super-power" which 'Psych' ripped off from 'Monk'. Or 'House'. Or Sherlock Holmes. I.e. it's so common it can't really be said to be ripped off. In fairness though, I haven't watched 'Psych' since the first season so some of that may have changed).
azzers, that very thing is going on right now with a well-known author's work. Back around 2004, some (apparently previously unpublished, since I can't find anything else by him) author decided to take Jim Kjelgaard's book "Fire Hunter" and re-write it as a "Young Adult" novel - read "butchered", since Kjelgaard's novel was itself a young adult novel for the time. Didn't even bother to change the title or the main characters' names, nor get permission from Kjelgaard's estate. Hopefully, this will be the guy's last plagiarized book, as the original was not nearly as forgotten as he must have assumed, and he's being pretty widely called on it.
Unfortunately, "make it the same... only different," is a mantra in Hollywood. The suits who run things there don't have much on creativity, but they know money when they smell it.

Can't wait to see "Drones"! It's on my "to-get" DVD list, mainly because I'm a fan of both Amber and Adam, and they do good work.
I don't want to see this go to court. That would suck for all parties involved and the only winners would be the attorneys. In the mean time the effort Benson would be wasted on that when she should be telling us stories.

I'd like to see her get credit for her effort, and then see those with influence invest in her voice. As an apology, SyFy could promise to produce her next project and let her have creative control. Amber Benson has an inventive insightful mind with an unique endearingly quirky sensibility, and has delivered in the past in print, online and independent film. She's proven herself. It'd be nice if instead of ignoring or 'borrowing' her ideas, the moneybags still funding Hollywood would bank on her vision directly.
ZachsMind: Well said. It's not like Amber or Adam would turn their noses up and demand mega-bucks to work on a SyFy series. They've both proven they have talent and they can deliver.
Isn't The Lion King also essentially an animated, animal-themed version of some play called Hamlet? :)

This whole thing also reminds me of the lawsuit against Dreamworks for the film Disturbia, as it was claimed to be too much like the original short story, "It Had To Be Murder" which itself was the basis for the film, Rear Window. Wikipedia does not mention the outcome of that lawsuit, but if I recall, Dreamworks eventually won out because of similar reasons stated in comments on this post. I could be wrong. Point is, it's all in how you execute a given idea to make it your own. I mean, nobody seemed to cry foul at the film Fright Night (which is currently being remade of course, from a script by Marti Noxon), which is also basically the Rear Window story. The fresh and unique take on it involves a supernatural element.
If you are interested in the debate (and IMO it's hard not to be when the internet is slowly destroying the walls of control), and in some of the ideas and issues surrounding the copyright thing, here are a few more links:

questioncopyright.org is an organization whose stated mission is "...to highlight the economic, artistic, and social harm caused by distribution monopolies, and to demonstrate how freedom-based distribution is better for artists and audiences."

A Forbes Article about a machine that creators are calling The Book Liberator. It's purpose is to scan your books on paper into digital form. I think the implications are obvious.

Sita Sings the Blues is an animated retelling of the Indian epic "The Ramayana (the greatest breakup story ever told)." You can download it for free at the site. The shadow puppet's parts are hysterical, btw. The creator, Nina Paley, couldn't get the rights to the music she wanted to use in the film but she went ahead and did it anyways. She also talks about the troubles this has caused and about how she is making back her money and then some.

Disclaimer: I don't really have an opinion yet on these issues. I do know that the old models of making money are on their way out. We can't stop it short of a worldwide EMP--and I don't think we all want any of that. ;) The internet and digitizing has changed everything. Before it was easy for a few to control the distribution and the amount of product. Those days are over. Bit Torrent? IRC? Pirate Bay? Scanalators?

I'm just trying to figure out the new viable models.

I do know there are some other alternative models out there right now. The Japanese have a completely different system for their manga than we do in our comic book industry. Dojinshis are self-published works that at times include established big name characters by other creators. They are tolerated in the manga world because they feed the fan frenzy and obsessions. And consequently lead to more sales of the actual licensed products. They have their own convention for dojinshis, Comiket, which is attended by upwards of 500,000 people and also floors in Otaku oriented buildings that sell nothing other than dojinshis. Everyone is still making money. Can you imagine Marvel letting Spiderman be used by fans for original creations and sold?)
Hi, Simon and everyone! We updated this story with a response from Scott Prendergast (and mention some a little Whedonesque as well): Airlock Alpha

[ edited by AlphaMichael on 2010-08-03 15:00 ]
That doesn't mean the ideas of having an office environment where the workers find out their bosses are aliens might not be similar. But it's not a case of plagiarism, Prendergast said. At least not from his side.

Hmm, did Mr Prendergast actually say (or imply) the writers of 'Drones' might've "borrowed" from his script or is that something added in the article itself (or maybe an ambiguous allusion to the possibly "plagiarised" synopsis) ? Because i'd hate for this to become a huge thing due to misunderstandings based on misattribution (i'd hate for this to become a huge thing full-stop so fingers crossed it won't).

Some fact-checking by Prendergast and others online, including some posters at Whedonesque where this story originally grew legs, did not turn up any evidence that Benson's synopsis of her movie existed before her July 31 blog post following the "Human Relations" release."

Err, that's not completely true though is it, as mentioned above ? I'd say the evidence is pretty inconclusive but it's a bit misleading to say there isn't any evidence AlphaMichael, no offence.

(I still can't find the rest of Amber's text online from before this broke but it seems odd that she'd put it in quotes and even include ellipses - as if she'd excised part of the original - if she wasn't quoting from somewhere. Not saying she definitely is, just that it seems odd)

Either way, seems like the guy didn't plagiarise in any way (no reason to doubt his word and added to that, his account sounds like a million other development stories, it's got the ring of truth) so that should be the end of it (it won't be obviously but it should be ;).


edited to fix a plural that isn't

[ edited by Saje on 2010-08-03 10:14 ]
Hmm, did Mr Prendergast actually say (or imply) the writers of 'Drones' might've "borrowed" from his script or is that something added in the article itself (or maybe an ambiguous allusion to the possibly "plagiarised" synopsis) ? Because i'd hate for this to become a huge thing due to misunderstandings based on misattribution (i'd hate for this to become a huge thing full-stop so fingers crossed it won't).


I don't think it's meant to imply anything, but only to speak for himself. Remember, he only knows what HE did, not what Amber Benson did. However, there is some questions overall about the synopsis which I will touch on the rest of this.

Err, that's not completely true though is it, as mentioned above ? I'd say the evidence is pretty inconclusive but it's a bit misleading to say there isn't any evidence AlphaMichael, no offence


Actually, look at the wording here. "... did not turn up any evidence that Benson's synopsis of her movie existed before her July 31 blog post ..."

What is not "completely true" about it? Has evidence been turned up by those sources mentioned? Did Prendergast, others, or someone here on Whedonesque show the actual full synopsis that Amber Benson put out there in her July 31 blog as being used ahead of July 31?

What might not be "completely true" is if we had said it doesn't exist. Then I would be with you on that. :) But unless you can show me where this synopsis is out there worded this way (or at least pretty close) ahead of this July 31 announcement, then I think it's safe to say that statement is completely true, as no evidence of its existence has turned up.

The reason why the synopsis issue is coming up, by the way, is the fact that if you read the blog posts from other people and the such -- and even our story on this -- we all hone in on the similarities between the synopses. Now, even if Amber Benson DID write this particular synopsis after the fact, it doesn't change the similarities between the two stories ... but there are similarities in a lot of things. Sometimes its plagiarism, sometimes it's just coincidence since there is a finite number of ideas out there.

But to be honest, it's actually not fair to anyone to rewrite a synopsis to mirror another in any effort to show similarity between concepts, unless it's made clear that this was a rewritten synopsis. The way this was picked up -- which I'm hoping was completely unintentional by Amber Benson -- was that Syfy was so blatant in an idea theft, that they went right down and copied the synopsis as well.
Actually, look at the wording here. "... did not turn up any evidence that Benson's synopsis of her movie existed before her July 31 blog post ..."

What is not "completely true" about it? Has evidence been turned up by those sources mentioned? Did Prendergast, others, or someone here on Whedonesque show the actual full synopsis that Amber Benson put out there in her July 31 blog as being used ahead of July 31?


Best will in the world, I think that's slightly disingenuous. Fair enough, strictly speaking there's no evidence that the entity "that entire synopsis" existed (because to show that we'd need to find "that entire synopsis") but a) I don't think [non-lawyer] people will read it that way and b) as I say above, there's plenty of evidence that part of "that entire synopsis" existed (verbatim) in January of this year (specifically the part before the ellipses i.e. "The Office meets The Day The Earth Stood Still..."). I don't think it's unreasonable to consider solid evidence that part of it existed to be (inconclusive, partial) evidence that ALL of it may have existed. Your wording implies that there was no evidence found whatsoever. If someone claimed to have found evidence of "a human being buried in place X" would you say they don't have any evidence of "a human being buried in place X" because they'd only found a skull ?

But to be honest, it's actually not fair to anyone to rewrite a synopsis to mirror another in any effort to show similarity between concepts, unless it's made clear that this was a rewritten synopsis.

Personally I agree, whenever anyone uses a rhetorical trick to prove a point they should flag it upfront but to play Devil's advocate for a bit, why does whether the synopsis itself existed beforehand make any difference ? What matters is surely whether it accurately reflects the plot of 'Drones' (i'm fairly certain she's not claiming Sci-Fi ripped her off based solely on her original synopsis). As per your claim about the evidence, strictly she hasn't said anything untrue (AFAIK, not having seen 'Drones').
Best will in the world, I think that's slightly disingenuous. Fair enough, strictly speaking there's no evidence that the entity "that entire synopsis" existed (because to show that we'd need to find "that entire synopsis") but a) I don't think [non-lawyer] people will read it that way and b) as I say above, there's plenty of evidence that part of "that entire synopsis" existed (verbatim) in January of this year (specifically the part before the ellipses i.e. "The Office meets The Day The Earth Stood Still...").


But seriously, Saje ... so what? Many synopses and pitches kick off with [Insert popular show/movie] meets [Insert popular show/movie] because decision-makers at networks and studios like ideas that have already been tried and successful. They're always looking for the next "Office," the next "Lost," heck, even the next "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" sometimes.

So even if the first part existed, so what? If the whole synopsis was that sentence, and compared to the sentence offered by Syfy, no one could really, in their right mind, claim anything.

However, the real question here is if Amber Benson wrote this new synopsis so close to the synopsis offered by "Human Relations" that it caused many people to start question "Human Relations" based almost entirely on a synopsis that seems to read almost word for word with one that Amber Benson offered -- AFTER THE FACT.

I am in the middle of a hundred things right now, so I hope that makes sense. :) The fact is, whether it was intentional or not, there were some key words used -- like "off-kilter" -- and others that made it look even more like there was borrowing from one side or another, along with the implication that the story idea for "Human Relations" came AFTER the posting of the "Drones" trailer on Syfy.

Put those two together, and you see a lot there.

I don't think it's unreasonable to consider solid evidence that part of it existed to be (inconclusive, partial) evidence that ALL of it may have existed.


I hope you're not asking us to assume that the rest of that synopsis offered by Benson existed before, just because the standard opening pitch phrase was used before, right? I am not sure how anyone can logically make that assumption.

And as a journalist, I'm not in the business of assumptions. I'm in the business of facts. And right now, it's a fact that neither I (nor anyone else) can seem to find the rest of this synopsis from Benson worded this way anywhere before her July 31 blog post. If some other evidence pops up, then we can revisit that particular aspect of the story.

Personally I agree, whenever anyone uses a rhetorical trick to prove a point they should flag it upfront but to play Devil's advocate for a bit, why does whether the synopsis itself existed beforehand make any difference ?


Because right now that seems to be the primary weapon fueling Amber Benson's claims, and what is being picked up by news outlets and bloggers everywhere else. They are pointing out to the similarity of structure, the use of the same exact words (like "off-kilter") and others as "evidence" that one is a rip-off of the other. And many of them aren't even taking the time to reach out to Scott Prendergast, as we did, to try and get the whole story.

If people weren't pointing almost exclusively to the similarity in the wording of these two synopses as evidence that someone lifted something from someone else, then how the synopsis was worded, when that synopsis was created, etc., wouldn't matter. But because it is, it does matter in this situation.

What matters is surely whether it accurately reflects the plot of 'Drones' (i'm fairly certain she's not claiming Sci-Fi ripped her off based solely on her original synopsis). As per your claim about the evidence, strictly she hasn't said anything untrue (AFAIK, not having seen 'Drones').


True, but remember, it's not easy to take a synopsis and know everything there is to know about a film. It's a single-sentence pitch.

Take this synopsis (without the obligatory "show meets show"):

"In a way to reconnect with his father, a man embarks on an adventure in a futuristic world to save the very world we live in."

What does that sound like to you? I bet many first guesses could be "Tron: Legacy." Some might think I'm talking Season 3 of "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." Or a few other possibilities.

But here, I am talking about 2009's "Star Trek."

We don't want to see people stealing from others, or unfairly taking advantage of others to get something they want. That's why we're big on stories like this -- but we also are big on presenting all sides, and will bring up questions where they are warranted.

I strongly believe Amber Benson wants to protect her indie film, and I'm all for that. But it does seem that her accusations may have been a bit harsh here ... especially without having all the information. We, as fans (and media) care about what Amber has to say, because we respect her and respect her work. So if she talks about someone stealing from her, we're going to be there to talk about it as well.

However, if she jumps in with blinders on, or without getting all the facts, she can cause damage that will hurt others. For instance, because "Human Relations" is NOT a greenlit series, and is merely on Syfy's development slate (which is hard enough to get off of), controversy such as this that could tarnish the cable channel might cause executives there to reconsider continuing "Human Relations," even if the premise and the actual show is COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. (we don't know if it is or not, but the fact that it MIGHT be should be enough to have some people show restraint).

Is that fair for the people working on "Human Relations," to have their idea blown out of the water because of, at the very least, under-informed statements from someone else who is influential?

If Fox announced it was doing a western in space, and I came out and said that I did a project already that Fox knew about involving cowboys in space and it sounds eerily similar to my idea, and Fox decided to not move forward with a pilot, do you think that would be fair to Joss Whedon and Browncoats? Especially if my project was simply cowboys who found a time machine and ended up in a wacky, 1950s-style future where they fought future Indians, which had nothing to do with what "Firefly" ended up being?

Not saying that all of this will turn out this way ... but I strongly feel that any accusation (or implication) of IP theft is very serious, and should be treated seriously -- not just by those who are listening, but also by those who are talking.
But seriously, Saje ... so what? Many synopses and pitches kick off with [Insert popular show/movie] meets [Insert popular show/movie] because decision-makers at networks and studios like ideas that have already been tried and successful.

So what ? Well, how many others have been pitched as "The Office meets The Day the Earth Stood Still" specifically, just so I have an idea of numbers ? I.e. it's not the form that matters, it's the examples used. Maybe it arose independently (hell, maybe most people can't look at the trailer without thinking "The Office meets The Day the Earth Stood Still") OR maybe it's from something previously said in interview by Amber/Adam/whomever or even from a press release of some kind. However standard the form may be, the use of the exact same pitch phrase by several different sources in January suggests to me that those sources may have got the phrase from somewhere initially.

Just writing it off as "Well, loads of pitches start 'X meets Y'" misses the point entirely.

I hope you're not asking us to assume that the rest of that synopsis offered by Benson existed before, just because the standard opening pitch phrase was used before, right? I am not sure how anyone can logically make that assumption.

No, as I say, i'm asking "us" to assume that some evidence is some evidence rather than presenting it as none whatsoever. Parts of a body may not lead to a whole body but they at least suggest the possibility of one.

True, but remember, it's not easy to take a synopsis and know everything there is to know about a film. It's a single-sentence pitch.

It's nigh impossible in fact, as I imply above and state outright on the original thread.

Because right now that seems to be the primary weapon fueling Amber Benson's claims, and what is being picked up by news outlets and bloggers everywhere else.

The "primary weapon" fuelling her claims is that the plots are very similar, the synopses are only given to demonstrate that i.e. the similarity of the synopses is a symptom of the projects being similar. If her synopsis of 'Drones' isn't accurate then that's not just rhetoric, it's actually an untrue claim. If it is accurate then the rhetorical trick (if one has been used - i.e. assuming she did reword the synopsis for effect) is annoying BUT doesn't change the gist of the claim.

I agree though that folk have reported it sloppily without checking facts, rushed to assume her synopsis is an exact duplicate of an earlier one (she never says this and arguably never even implies it) etc. Welcome to the internet ;-).

But it does seem that her accusations may have been a bit harsh here ... especially without having all the information.

In fairness, she doesn't actually make any accusations (though she certainly strongly implies some stuff). I do agree though that the whole thing is ill-advised and she probably should've looked before she leapt (contacting the creators of 'Human Relations' quietly to ask what gives maybe) and not judged an entire TV series based on a couple of sentences but then that's blogs for you - they transport your quick, ill thought out responses to millions of people just as quickly as your pearls of wisdom.
There's an update here at Airlock Alpha: "Syfy Breaks Silence, Denies Former 'Buffy' Star's Claim." Quoting:

"Human Relations" is a proposed Syfy series that takes place in an office environment run by aliens. "Drones" is an independent movie co-directed by former "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" actors Amber Benson and Adam Busch that involves aliens running an office environment.

But that's where the similarities end, and Syfy is clearing the air.

"'Human Relations' is an original concept that was brought to us by Scott Prendergast, a respected independent filmmaker," Syfy said in a statement issued to the media. "It was in no way inspired by 'Drones.' We pride ourselves in our professional integrity and take suggestions of plagiarism very seriously."

The statement is intended to put an end to the controversy surrounding the two projects, started July 31 by Benson on her blog, which pointed out what she described as "coincidences" between the two projects. Mark Stern, Syfy's head of original programming, told Airlock Alpha that the cable channel waited this long to respond because it had to make sure Benson's claims were without merit first.

Here's the rest. I'm convinced.

You need to log in to be able to post comments.
About membership.



joss speaks back home back home back home back home back home