Reports that the copyright infringement lawsuit Harlan Ellison has filed against Andrew Niccol and his recent Justin Timberlake film “In Time” was settled have not only been exaggerated, but are actually false.
Vincent Cox, an attorney with Leopold Petrick & Smith in Los Angeles, who is representing Niccol in the suit, as well as an attorney with the Writers Guild of America, have contacted Airlock Alpha to dispute the recent story which claimed a settlement had been reached.
That story, first reported by Eric Shirey on the Yahoo! News Service, said that Niccol and Ellison settled the case that would give Ellison an unspecified credit in the film. In a lawsuit filed last September, Ellison claimed that “In Time” borrowed heavily from his 1965 short story, “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman.” Ellison went on to describe what he claimed were a number of similarities between his story and the concept surrounding “In Time,” which was released last month.
Shirey’s story, which was posted to Yahoo on Nov. 2, said in its lead that “Ellison settled for having his name added to the credits of the film. Whether they want to admit it or not, this may as well have been an admission of guilt for the movie’s producing parties.”
However, in Airlock Alpha’s story that sourced back to Shirey’s, we took a different approach, staying away from admittance of guilt. Settlements in many cases take place because it’s cheaper and easier than fighting a lawsuit, not because it means the defendants are guilty.
But there was no Ellison credit added to “In Time,” and the lawsuit is very much alive, Cox told Airlock Alpha.
“Ellison’s lawsuit is meritless,” Cox said, in an email. “There has been no settlement, and the next event in the case will be the motion filed by my client to toss out the plaintiff’s lawsuit.”
In a followup phone call, Cox told Airlock Alpha that the WGA controls who receives writing credit in films made under the collective bargaining agreement, and such a change would have to be cleared through the Guild first. A spokesperson for the WGA told Airlock Alpha that no such agreement existed, and that the WGA approved of no such credit to be added to “In Time.”
A spokeswoman for New Regency, which produced the film, also released a statement to Airlock Alpha: “Someone is planting false stories that the producers have acceded to Mr. Ellison’s demands for credit, impliedly defaming the screenwriter, Andrew Niccol. The facts are that no settlement has been reached at all, that all demands of Ellison have been rejected, and that a motion for dismissal will soon be filed.”
So where did this story come from? Airlock Alpha has reached out to Eric Shirey asking that very question, and we’re now awaiting a response. No source is mentioned in his story, and all other attribution referenced coverage of Ellison’s original lawsuit, not any settlement.
In his bio listed on Yahoo, Shirey says he is the webmaster of websites called Movie Geek Feed and The Spectral Realm. Movie Geek Feed is no longer updated, while Spectral Realm is sparsely updated. It appears that Shirey now aggregates his writing on a website called ERS, Ink.
“In Time” is ranked No. 95 so far this year in total box office with a take of $23.2 million, matching its budget, according to The Numbers. Niccol is best known for his previous work like “Gattaca” and “The Truman Show.”
Ellison, of course, is known as an award-winning sci-fi author who also penned the original script for the famous “Star Trek” episode “City on the Edge of Forever.” Ellison also is known to like paying lawyers and filing lawsuits, many times claiming theft of his work, and at least once has forced a settlement to receive credit for his work, including James Cameron’s “The Terminator,” a move Cameron publicly disagreed with.
Ellison could not be reached for comment. His official website has not been updated in years, outside of a quaint message board that he sometimes chats on. Ellison has posted on that board in recent days, but has not made any statements whatsoever about a settlement, nor did he correct any other posters who congratulated him on the settlement.