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James Cameron Wins Dismissal of 'Avatar' Art Infringment Lawsuit

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. | Last updated on

A U.S. District Court Judge in New York dismissed a lawsuit against director James Cameron by an artist who claimed that aspects of Cameron's movie "Avatar" were based on his artwork.

Artist William Roger Dean -- the artist behind the iconic logo and many of the album covers of the rock band Yes -- had claimed in his suit that the depictions of the planet Pandora in "Avatar," including some of its alien flora and fauna, improperly infringed on his copyrighted artwork, reports The Hollywood Reporter.

What did a federal judge have to say about Dean's copyright claims?

Dismissal Calls Dean's Claims 'Misguided'

In dismissing Dean's lawsuit, District Court Judge Jesse M. Furman characterized Dean's efforts to show the similarity between his works and "Avatar" "plainly misguided." Furman notes, in his opinion and order, that many of the images Dean claims are infringing on his copyrights are not taken from the film "Avatar" itself but from books about or derived from the movie.

The court also notes that images from the film cited by Dean are generally taken out of context -- as single frames captured from scenes containing thousands of different frames -- and manipulated by cropping and rotating, to more closely match the images provided by Dean of his artwork, also frequently cropped, rotated, or otherwise manipulated.

Although granting that Cameron may very well have been inspired by Dean's work in creating "Avatar," the judge notes that no average person would consider "Avatar" as having been appropriated from Dean's copyrighted work and that "the law is clear that 'not all copying results in copyright infringement.'"

The lawsuit by Dean is just the latest "Avatar" copyright infringement claim to be filed against Cameron since the movie's release in 2009. In 2010, two separate lawsuits claimed that the portions of "Avatar" were lifted from copyrighted works. In 2011, one of Cameron's former employees sued, claiming that "Avatar" was originally his idea.

According to the opinion, "Avatar" has grossed over $760 million in domestic box office receipts, making it the highest-grossing movie of all time. And, it seems, a target for litigation.

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