Stranger Things plagiarism lawsuit: How will it play out?


Stranger Things is in the news for all the wrong reasons.

Just as Netflix’s latest controversy was starting to cool down, they got hit with another one.  Tuesday morning, Stranger Things creators the Duffer Brothers were hit with a plagiarism lawsuit by filmmaker Charlie Kessler.

Kessler alleges the Duffer Brothers lifted the idea of Stranger Things from his 2012 short film Montauk.  Kessler also claims to have pitched the idea to the Duffer Brothers in April 2014.

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Despite the Duffer Brothers attorney’s statement that the suit is “completely meritless” and questions whether or not Kessler can prove he met with the Duffer Brothers before the creation of Stranger Things, there are some details that can’t be so readily dismissed.

When Stranger Things was originally greenlit back in 2015, it was also originally titled Montauk.  Kessler’s story also involved a missing boy, a mysterious military base and a monster from another dimension.

Of course, as Deadline also points out, both ideas came long after the 1992 book The Montauk Project: Experiments in Time — about supposedly true stories of various secret military experiments at the Montauk Air Force Base. Kessler may be legally vulnerable as well.

The outcomes of plagiarism suits can be something of a case by case basis. The Duffer Brothers and Netflix could fight the suit and most likely win with their greater number of resources.

The other possibility is they could quietly settle the manner out of court in order to save on legal fees and bad press.

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Another plagiarism suit that made headlines recently involves the last Best Picture winner The Shape of Water.  

A couple months ago, a plagiarism suit was filed against Guillermo del Toro for allegedly ripping off the script for The Shape of Water from a play by Paul Zindel titled Let Me Hear You Whisper.  

Some folks, including Fox Searchlight, found the timing of the suit more than a little suspicious.  The suit had been filed the day after Oscar voting had begun so some have viewed the suit as a calculated attempt from the competition to hurt the film’s Oscar chances.

The case is still pending and time will tell how that case pans out but with the Oscars now over and done with, the coverage has largely died down.

Another notable incident is the now rather infamous Buchwald v Paramount case.

Back In 1982, writer and Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald originally wrote a treatment titled It’s a Crude, Crude, World, which he then pitched to Paramount and wanted to star Eddie Murphy.

Paramount bought the option from Buchwald but ultimately abandoned the project after a couple years worth of development hell.

A few years later in 1988, the Eddie Murphy film, Coming to America was released by Paramount. The film was said to based on a story idea from Murphy himself, and the script was credited to David Sheffield and Barry W. Blaustein.

Buchwald, noticing some similarities to the treatment he sold to Paramount, sued the studio in 1990 for breach of contract. The synopsis for Buchwald’s treatment can be read here.

Buchwald won the lawsuit and Paramount opted to pay him $900,000 rather than appeal.

The controversy from the lawsuit endured well past the settlement with Coming to America director John Landis, in particular, denouncing the lawsuit.

Landis was quoted in the 2008 Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan book John Landis saying the suit was “without merit” and insisted Buchwald’s suit got so much attention from the press because of Buchwald’s status as being a member of the press himself.

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Do you think Kessler has a case against the Duffer Brothers?  Give us your thoughts in the comment section don’t forget to follow us on Facebook & Twitter for more on your favorite shows!