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Arrrrrgh! Can Disney Fend Off 4th 'Pirates' Copyright Suit?

By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on May 16, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Let's call this the copyright lawsuit that just won't go away. What Disney thought was finality in a lawsuit involving the creation of 'Pirates of the Caribbean' now has new life.

In its fourth iteration, this lawsuit may now actually move forward. Let the drama begin.

The Settlement

It all started long ago, in a land far away ... uh, not really. In 2003, soon after the release of the Disney movie "Pirates of the Caribbean," screenwriter Royce Mathew sued Disney, in Orlando, Fl., claiming copyright infringement claiming he created characters, plots in themes similar to the ones in the movie in the 1980s. Disney countered the claims, and Mathew dropped the suit, but not before filing another lawsuit in California. The California suit was settled by the parties, with both parties "releasing all claims against each other stemming from the 'Pirates' movies up to that point," reports Courthouse News Service.

Here We Go Again

In 2009, Disney published a book that included scenes the company said it relied on in the settlement to rebut the claim of copyright infringement in the original claim. One problem. The scene was created by a different author. This, and other disparities led Royce Mathew to revive his claims and file a new lawsuit in Orlando. That court dismissed the case, and he tried his hand again in Manhattan, asking for rescission of the settlement agreement.

Will Disney Walk the Plank ... to California?

In March of this year, District Judge John Koeltl, granted Disney's motion to transfer the action to California. However, he stayed the transfer pending Mathew's motion for reconsideration. Earlier this week, the Second Circuit granted Mathew's motion for an administrative stay, stating that his "motion for a stay shall be referred to a three-judge motions panel for expedited consideration on the merits," and adding the outcome of his petition for writ of mandamus "shall be referred to a panel for decision in due course."

So, this case may be headed to California, where Disney thinks it belongs, but the Second Circuit needs to decide a few things before the case will get transferred. Mathew's attorneys see the Second Circuit's stay as "an important development," while Disney attorneys are confident Mathew is not likely to succeed on the merits, reports Courthouse News Service.

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