MGM Doesn't Think Its James Bond Lawsuit Over 'Section 6' Is Hasty

Skyfall ($1.11 billion)

The 23rd James Bond film -- and the third starring Daniel Craig as the suave secret agent -- was a worldwide, grossing $96.5 million in less than a week overseas ahead of its North America debut. Domestically the Sam Mendes-directed film earned $304.4 million, while it grossed $804.2 in foreign markets. The film, which was released during the 50th anniversary of the Bond series, became the the highest-grossing film in the UK and the highest-grossing film in the entire Bond series.

MGM and Danjaq, rights-holders of the James Bond franchise, are looking to shield a lawsuit from a motion to kill.

The plaintiffs are suing Universal Pictures and screenwriter Aaron Berg over an alleged Bond film knockoff, but Universal argues that the spy flick Section 6 remains unproduced and hardly a firm go, and as such, tells the judge that the lawsuit is a "patent waste of resources."

On Wednesday, MGM's lawyers gave the judges its reasons why the litigation should be kept living.

In court papers, the plaintiffs argue that it's not merely the "final" screenplay or film that's important.

"That theory applies to cases where the plaintiff seeks to use 'interim' drafts to prove that the 'final' version is infringing," states the opposition to a motion to dismiss. "But plaintiffs have not sought to do that here and have no need to do so. Universal has already unlawfully copied and distributed a screenplay that infringes plaintiffs' rights. Universal is liable now for its past conduct with regard to that screenplay."

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MGM says the law doesn't require it to sit on its rights until Universal deems its revisions to be "finished" or until the movie "wraps," pointing to a claimed derivative work (the word processing file on Berg's computer) and changes being authorized. It says that Universal has hired writers to revise Berg's screenplay and argues, "Such conduct constitutes the preparation of a separate derivative work based upon the Bond works."

Although Universal has assured Bond rights-holders that Section 6 won't in end product be derivative of Bond, the plaintiffs are skeptical, citing among other reasons, "Universal has paid Berg over $1 million for the Screenplay and it would be contrary to industry practice, and make no sense, to pay anything close to that amount of money for a screenplay whose characters, plot, key dialogue, themes, settings, etc., the buyer intended to immediately discard."

The plaintiffs also blast "Universal’s attempt to trivialize the monetary damages its infringing conduct has thus far inflicted."

Here's MGM's full brief.

This doesn't mean that Section 6 truly is a Bond knockoff. For that, the judge will weigh substantial similarity of elements. Separately, the plaintiffs file another brief to defeat Berg's motion to dismiss, but it's hard to do much analysis of the arguments when an unproduced Hollywood screenplay is apparently treated in the judicial system as if it came from the classified files of the Central Intelligence Agency. See here:

Twitter: @eriqgardner