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Harlan Ellison was determined to keep the Justin Timberlake film “In Time” from ever seeing the light of day in a movie theater. Instead, he received a film credit in what appears to be an undisclosed settlement between he and writer/director Andrew Niccol.
The film, which has grossed more than $24 million so far (and is still quite short from its $40 million budget), was released on Halloween weekend as planned, despite the lawsuit from Ellison. The author, who also was known for his huge fuss over the classic “Star Trek” episode “City on the Edge of Forever,” claimed “In Time” ripped off his 1965 short story, “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman.”
The two concepts appeared to have had a number of similarities, including the dystopian future where people have a specific time to live.
Neither side has talked about settlement of the case, but a credit does now appear in the film recognizing Ellison.
It’s not the first time Ellison has sued over copyright infringement. In fact, it has happened several times over the years. The most famous was when he used James Cameron in the early 1980s over “The Terminator,” claiming the film was based on episodes he penned of “The Outer Limits.” Cameron vehemently denied any such lifting took place, and was completely opposed to Orion Pictures settling with Ellison and adding a credit to him in the film.
However, seeing how “In Time” is doing at the box office, Ellison should probably consider electing to use “Cordwainer Bird” instead.
Some media outlets have described this as Ellison “winning” the lawsuit. However, no side has claimed victory or defeat, and such settlements are sometimes made because the concessions are far cheaper than continuing the lawsuit. It’s not clear if Ellison received any money for “In Time,” but it’s likely he did at least receive compensation for attorneys fees.
But it’s possible that Ellison could’ve won this particular suit in court, although it likely would not have prevented the film from being released (instead more likely delayed).
Niccol joins Cameron and others as those on the wrong side of Ellison’s lawyers. Niccol is best known for work that included “The Truman Show” and “Gattaca” in the 1990s.