Filmmaker Joss Whedon Faces Intellectual Property Theft Lawsuit Over ‘Cabin in the Woods’ Plot

intellectual property theftOn Monday, news broke that filmmaker Joss Whedon, who is famous for The Avengers and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is facing a lawsuit over potential intellectual property theft for his 2012 film The Cabin in the Woods. The suit alleges that Whedon, who wrote and produced the film, and creative partner Drew Goddard, who directed it, stole the plot of the film from a self-published novel by a man named Peter Gallagher. Also named in the suit is Lionsgate Films, which produced the movie, and Whedon’s production company, Mutant Enemy.

Gallagher claims that the filmmakers took their ideas from his 2006 book, The Little White Trip: A Night in the Pines.Cabin’s storyline follows a group of young people who stay in a remote cabin, only to find out that they’re surrounded by monsters in what is supposed to be a horror film scenario designed by a mysterious organization. The problem, says Gallagher, is that his book, which came out six years before the film, features the same plot.

There are even similarities between specific details of the novel and the movie. Gallagher says that the appearance and personality of his book’s Julie and Dura, two of the main characters, sound remarkably like the movie’s Jules and Dana. There are even scenes where the characters find strange items in their cabins and realize they are being filmed by hidden cameras.

How can he be so sure that they’ve read his book? Gallagher says that he sold the book on the Venice Beach boardwalk and on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade — not too far from where the defendants live and operate in Santa Monica. He also says he was contacted by film studios about adapting the book, but he didn’t name either Lionsgate or Mutant Enemy. Gallagher’s intellectual property theft suit cites copyright infringement as the main issue. He is seeking $10 million in damages from Whedon and company in a suit filed in a California federal court.

What should creators do if they suspect that they are the victim of intellectual property theft? Brushing up on copyright and patent laws may be one thing for creators to do, but a simpler solution would be discuss the matter with an intellectual property rights lawyer. Because copyright forms the basis by which creators are paid and credited for their work, it is crucial that writers and artists, especially, understand the ways to protect intellectual property.

It’s also crucial that inventors realize that they aren’t alone. Even larger businesses see intellectual property infringement, most often from former employees (21% of the time) and trusted business partners (17% of the time). In 35% of all cases, this insider theft occurs in the Information Technology industry, but banking and finance and chemical businesses also see a combined 25% of all insider theft as well (13% and 12%, respectively). Small businesses and entrepreneurs may feel that they don’t have the means to defend themselves in the event of infringement, but having the right protections in place can be the best defense in these situations.