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Lawsuit Over "Pirates of the Caribbean"

7/11/2006 1:15 PM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

Pirates of the CaribbeanA Hollywood screenwriter is suing pretty much everyone involved with "Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl," the first installment of the now record-breaking "Pirates" series.

Royce Mathew claims in the 80s and 90s, he "created and wrote a number of original works including drawings, screenplays, outlines, blueprints, storyboards and other original materials...which he generally entitled "SNPM," standing for 'Super Natural Pirate Movie.'"

According to the lawsuit, obtained by TMZ and filed in United States District Court, Central District of California, Royce alleges he created "various drawings depicting his pirate ship, which he named the Black Pearl, and an original design for a 'medallion,' both of which are are central elements of his screenplay." Royce says he registered the drawings and his screenplay with the U.S. Copyright Office.

Royce says the screenplay contained a blacksmith/swordsman named Will Turner, an eccentric pirate captain and a unique cursed crew whose curse was revealed only in the moonlight. Royce claims the daughter of a British governor named Elizabeth falls in love with Will Turner. In "Pirates of the Caribbean," Orlando Bloom plays Will Turner and Keira Knightley plays Elizabeth Swann, who falls in love with Will Turner.

In the lawsuit, Royce says he shopped his materials between 1991 through 1995 to various defendants, both directly and through the William Morris Agency and Creative Artist Agency. Royce claims his materials were rejected and then the first "Pirates of the Caribbean" was created, allegedly using his work as a blueprint.

The first "Pirates" movie raked in $655 million worldwide.

Royce is suing, among others, The Walt Disney Company, Buena Vista Home Entertainment, Touchstone Home Video, Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc., and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Inc. He is asking for unspecified damages and an injunction prohibiting the defendants from publicly displaying the movie.

Royce is also asking that all copies of "Pirates" that the defendants control be impounded.

Although the lawsuit does not mention the two "Pirates" sequels, it does ask the judge to issue an injunction against the first "Pirates" and "other infringing works."

A Disney spokewoman says the suit "has no merit."

Click here to see the documents.

35 COMMENTS

No Avatar
1.

Cutedlc    

Yeah Right !! That guy just wants some $ for himself!!!!! WHAT A JERK !!!

2909 days ago
2.

Tyler    

The story line is what makes the movie.

2935 days ago
3.

Amy Nelson    

Please!!! Why didn't he sue when the first movie came out!! What ever!!

2935 days ago
4.

wonderwomen8    

When a movie makes as much money as Pirates everyone wants a piece of the fortune.

2935 days ago
5.

Leigh Barrett    

Y'know, he's right: How could they ever have created a gold doubloon with a skull on it without his drawing? Or a governor's daughter who falls for a pirate (Olivia de Havilland, anyone)? Or an eccentric pirate captain (and Depp brought in most of the eccentricities of Sparrow on his own)? Or a reluctant young pirate brought onto the ship as a youth (as in Pirates of Penzance)? .... Classic images that are pretty much in the public domain. Desperate fellow, methinks.

2935 days ago
6.

Tony    

"Please!!! Why didn't he sue when the first movie came out!! What ever!!

Posted at 1:49PM on Jul 11th 2006 by Amy"

Lawsuit as big as this can, often times, take years to process through the legal court system, therefore, he could've easily sued the day after the first one came out. I'm not on either side, but the evidence is generally astounding. With a patented script in the year 1995 with the said details, it is pretty incriminating. On the other hand, some of the details are too much and maybe added on last second for this same purpose.

2935 days ago
7.

mandy    

Unless he has proof of the DATES that he created all his "images" and "ideas" this lawsuit won't go far. If he seriously had this idea first, don't you think he would have tried suing as soon as the first movie was advertised? The "idea" of the movie and "images" were in those previews - the ship, gold coin. I think if he wasn't just trying to get money out of this he would have taken action long ago.

2935 days ago
8.

Mai    

While I don't know about this situation, it wouldn't be the first time such a thing has happened. If he didn't make every one of the people he showed these things to sign a nondisclosure agreement, there's little that can be done.

2935 days ago
9.

hulk    

It probably took him this long to come up with his fake storyboards and scripts for the first one.

2935 days ago
10.

D Adams    

Bottom line is if the date of the dude's registered documents is legit, he's got a case. And remember it's not the first time Disney's gone to court for this, remember Atlantis? As to the timing, that's actually perfect, not only claiming a piece of the first but the second movie too, rather than shutting down the cash cow too soon.

2935 days ago
11.

char    

if he copyrighted everything then the courts would have seen that and he wouldnt be going to court for very long.....except to "claim" his funds!! .. so he obviously needs to get a life ----and a real job like the rest of us !!!!! copyrighted things are registered and if it was true he did that then like everyone else has basically said--hes the stupid one for not suing earlier...and i thought the makers of the movie had an IMAGINATION!!!! ha GOOD-GRIEF!! some people's kids!!

2935 days ago
12.

DeeBee    

Interesting that he waited three years to file a complaint. It would have been more plausible if he had jumped on it the second the first one came out. Our legal system may be slow, but three years? Come on. Do you really believe in this day and age allegations of that magnitude could be kept under wraps for so long? Also, I think that the facts of his screenplay are exact to a fault. If the storyline was in fact stolen as he alleges I have a hard time believing that ANY studio would make it that blatant. Me thinks a pirate is in the mist and his name be Royce.

2935 days ago
13.

Andy    

Don't glibly dismiss this guy as a gold-digger. While these things happen infrequently, if he has dated proof that he registered his materials and showed them to Disney reps prior to the start of pre-production he may have reason to feel cheated and may be owed real compensation. As for the timing, it takes a while simply to identify all the defendants and prepare a suit - even longer to properly cover all your bases if you're going up against a large consortium of well-financed and well-prepared defendants with a reputation for legal prowess.

As for legal reform in which the loser pays all legal fees for both sides, what kind of chance would you give a wronged person that has to go up against Wal*Mart or GM? These companies can afford to put people on a suit full-time for years, and if you think that Disney doesn't proactively protect its interests in court, you're mistaken. These companies SHOULD vigorously defend their properties, but they should also ensure that they have rightly and legally created or purchased their material.

2935 days ago
14.

Richard    

This guy registered in Dec 03, The movie came out in June 03. little late to Copyright it?

http://www.copyright.gov/records/cohm.html
PA-1-204-748

2935 days ago
15.

Robert Laird    

Wasn't his registration though after pirates was already released?

2935 days ago
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