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April 15 2015

Joss Whedon, Lionsgate hit with copyright lawsuit over 'The Cabin in the Woods'. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "In the complaint, Peter Gallagher... claims Whedon and Goddard took the idea for The Cabin in the Woods from his 2006 novel The Little White Trip: A Night In the Pines. He's suing for copyright infringement and wants $10 million in damages."

Doesn't this happen all the time?
Sighs... look at the timing, Daredevil just out, Age of Ultron on the brink, just another schmuck looking for almost free publicity... it doesn't matter if there is any validity to his claim, just the fact that his name might come up during this heavy promotional period. Sadly it is just the Barnum rule.

It's like when agents throw out names and we see rumored castings reported in the trades for major projects, even when such projects haven't even started casting phase.
Of course this happens now of all occasions.
Didn't Joss think up and pitch the idea back during the Buffy days? From memory.
From my few conversations with entertainment lawyers, what copyright infringement relies on in these cases is execution of a concept, not concept itself, as concept is noncopyrightable. I'm no lawyer but "five friends (three guys and two girls) between the ages of 17 and 22 who take a trip to a remote cabin in the woods. The cabinís previous inhabitants were murdered by the father of the family, who returns to terrorize the group of friends.
In the end, it is revealed that the friends are being filmed and manipulated by persons behind the scenes, thus becoming inadvertent characters in a real-life horror show for the enjoyment of others" sounds like a concept? I don't know, I'm not a lawyer, I don't know the intricacies of this.

There's also: "Both works display a self-referential awareness of classic horror movie tropes and insert third-party puppeteers to manipulate the characters for the fulfillment of narrative requirements and the enjoyment of others." Admitting both works play on tropes is a little... I don't know.

[ edited by TenTonParasol on 2015-04-15 14:00 ]
And wasn't there a whole weekend in a hotel where Goddard & Joss hammered it out?

As another scifi character would say "Idjit"
My favorite bit is that he claims Joss *might* have read his book because he was selling it on a street that was not too far from Joss' house. Not in a store on that street, on the street.

That's one step away from saying that Joss was listening to his brainwaves through an implant in his dental work.
Jason, you can see why that bit has to be there.
If this book was only available in one place, and Joss et. al. were unlikely to have opportunity to obtain it, that would have been an instant death blow to this suit.
I hope he doesn't get a settlement. I hate oportunistic people!
Hmm... from reading the list of similarities in the actual brief (I love primary sources) their initial horror plots do seem to bear a suspiciously strong resemblance. With that said, my understanding of the whole point of tCitW is that it was about taking one of the most elemental (that is, unoriginal) plot/character models in the horror genre and using it as device to tell a completely different kind of story (news flash - tCitW is no more of a horror movie than Stanley Kubrick's The Shining. It's a psychological thriller.)

If there were strong similarities between characters and actions after the big reveal, then I would be suspicious. But it just so happens that the given list of similarities ends right at that point...

[ edited by brinderwalt on 2015-04-15 16:39 ]
These guys don't have to plagiarize.
If you want primary sources, the entire book is available for free on Scribd, linked from the author's blog so presumably not pirated or anything.
I thought the entire reason the set up was so familiar (kids at a cabin with stereotypical traits) was on purpose to skew all the horror films that have come before..? So of course that's going to be similar to a bunch of other works. I can't imagine that if he had come across this guy selling his book on the street and found the idea appealing that he wouldn't just buy the rights to the book and rewrite it. Because I'm going out on a limb and guessing that it ends completely differently than the guys book.
I'm no copyright lawyer (though I am married to someone who offers legal information, but not advice, on copyright on the regs), but you copyright the EXPRESSION, not the IDEA. That said, I guess he's trying to argue that the movie is a derivative work - a thing which, as the author of the novel, he should have the exclusive rights to produce.

I'm sure Joss et al. will have some great lawyers on their side to knock this out.

The part for me that weakens the whole thing a lot is where he says the kids are being put in this situation for people's entertainment. That, of course, isn't the ending of Cabin in the Woods - while the screens are there and people are getting laughs and taking bets, the purpose of the whole exercise is much bigger.
I mean, the whole point of the first part of the movie is that it's a rehash of familiar horror tropes. It's supposed to be the same as lots of other things we've seen before.

So the fact that it's similar to another horror story is ... proof that there are tropes in the horror genre? Which hardly seems like a shocking revelation.

If the twist were similar--or if there were striking similarities in "puppeteer" scenes--that might be grounds for a lawsuit. But the scenes listed are all from the early stuff in the movie, with the 5 kids at the cabin acting out horror movie tropes. And the twist sounds really different: in the book, apparently the "puppeteers" are trying create a horror movie where people actually die, or are actually in fear for their lives. The entire point is to make a movie (and maybe make money off it or something). That's not even slightly similar to the crazy shit that goes down in Cabin in the Woods.
A) They're totally different.
B) Good luck proving anybody involved in "Cabin" ever saw the book.
C) Why doesn't he sue the makers of the film "My Little Eye"? Oh, oops, that was released in 2002. Maybe those filmmakers should sue the novelist.
D) Good grief.
There are a lot of VERY strong similarities that are suspect, but the whole second half of the movie after the big twist doesn't seem to connect to the book at all. Even if we did believe that they took ideas from this book, they certainly expanded on them quite a bit.
I'm imagining the paralegal assigned to researching how many movies have used 5 Kids Go to A Cabin and Creepy Old Guy Gives Warning. He ends up on the TV Tropes site and they find him five days later lost in an article about Betty and Veronica tropes.

Monitor those billable hours, Joss.
This is stupid and annoying.
So The Cabin in the Woods has been out for 3 years, but this guy finally motivates himself to file a suit 2 weeks before Joss has a billion-dollar blockbuster movie opening?

Even if the guy had a case... this would make me not care.
FWIW you don't have to have seen a copyrighted work like this to run into problems if it too closely resembles it.
That is true, JDL.

As for how long it took to get this case, sometimes these things move a little slow, especially if you're not a big name to begin with. I imagine finding a lawyer who will take this, building this case so it isn't immediately dismissed, etc etc took a while.
Seeing as the first Avengers made a lot of money, I don't think the second movie coming out was the motivation. Unless both the author and his lawyer figured the timing would give the case more publicity...? Which the timing of AoU is probably a factor, yeah. But not just a monetary one, I think.
A group of people turned in experiments or sufering for audiences pleasure:
1987 - The Running Man
1997 - Cube
1998 - Dark City
Oh, FFS - *I* bought this book from that guy on the Venice Boardwalk some years ago - mostly because I felt sorry for the guy, and partly because my very talkative & guilelessly-friendly niece engaged with him & he was very persistent.

I thought so at first, and then I saw the cover and I *knew* so. I never read more than a few pages, I think, 'cos I thought it sucked, and I either still have it at home, or I donated it to a thrift store... must check when I get home late tonight.

So I can't (yet) discuss any similarities, but I can tell you the guy was pushy as all eff, and I couldn't wait to get us away from him, 'cos icky vibes.

I *do* know with every fiber of my being that Joss & Drew never stole ideas from anyone, and that's a fact. (And I honestly don't think either of them would have wasted a minute of their precious free time reading this book...)
Wasn't the fact that most horror movies are derivative schlock kind of the POINT of Cabin in the Woods? Those who can't or won't make the effort to move beyond hack work couldn't have made that particular movie no matter how many plot points line up on a synopsis.

If this guy is such a great writer, couldn't he have come up with an original nom de plume?
...having skimmed through the book last night, I can pretty much say that the only similarities are the generic horror 'kids go to a cabin, bad stuff happens type.'
(The twist that they are being filmed, only really comes up in the epilogue where it is revealed that no one nothing at all like the monitoring in the film.)
So all the things that made Cabin in the Woods distinct- (the old gods stuff, even the parallel narratives with the office guys)- isn't in the novel, and only a few of the generic elements are in both.

(It is also worth noting that the novel is from the perspective of a male protagonist, while Cabin obviously has a female protagonist...and obviously uses the final girl/ virgin troupes in its narrative.)
I agree with Scraggles and others that it was intentionally stereotypical.

Also, weren't the characters in Cabin being drugged to induce them to act/play certain prescribed trope roles?

I mean there are definite similarities in the setups from what I read of the suit, but not being a fan of the genre in general, I can't tell if those setups were pretty common in the genre in Cabin In The Woods' particular combination (The Jock, The Slut, The Virgin, The Nerd, The Ethnic Guy). But they're definitely archetypal, which is the whole point of the combination, but IIRC, even the characters were wondering why they were acting that way (weren't they all talking about their studies in the beginning, and that the blonde was pretty smart and yet she ended up taking on the role of The Slut?). Cabin was much more meta about it, and from what I can tell, Gallagher was actually using the tropes in a more straightforward manner.
Check out the amazon reviews. People already started ripping into the book without reading it because of the lawsuit :/. This guy may be opportunistic but that's rather petty and unfair. I can also see why he would genuinely believe they did steal his ideas. Although I agree with everyone else. They're probably similar because they're adding a twist to the same old tired tropes.

I think we should just ignore this. It'll eventually be resolved.
Paperback from $1499.22 on
bakla, yup - I want to say Jules is pre-med & Curt has some pretty scholastically intense major as well. And of course, Dana isn't technically a virgin, she's just the closest thing you can find in today's world. For me, it is the elder god/sacrifice/rationale for why people keep fulfilling these roles over and over that really makes CitW what it is, not the way it conforms to horror tropes. It's the desire to explain WHY media is glutted with this particular story over and over again.
In Doctor Who: Greatest Show in the Galaxy, a group of people are forced to compete for the pleasure of an 'audience' who turn out to be the gods of Ragnarok. Should the BBC be looking at this book?

BTW, the answer is 'good grief.'
Yep! I was thinking of that one, too, redeem147.

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