Did Disney Producer Pilfer “Pirates” Picture?

 

Arrggh, you stole me script mate…

 

by: Patrick Anderson | December 15, 2017

According to a complaint filed in Colorado District Court, Walt Disney producers literally stole the screenplay that became Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. On November 14, 2017, writers Lee Alfred and Ezequiel Martinez, Jr. (neither of which appear to have any IMDb writing credits) filed a copyright infringement suit, along with their producer Tova Laiter (whose credits include work on films such as Varsity Blues and Nixon).

The complaint details a number of very specific facts dating back as far as 1999, where Alfred and Martinez claim to have submitted an original screen play entitled Pirates of the Caribbean to Brigham Taylor at The Walt Disney Company. Taylor is a prolific Disney producer, with credits on Tomorrowland, The Jungle Book, and multiple Pirates films. The complaint then alleges a series of suspicious encounters:

  • “Alfred and Martinez attended a meeting … where upon arriving early, they noticed their script and artwork on a coffee table in Taylor’s office.” (¶ 37)
  • “they were quickly ushered out of the office to wait for Taylor” (¶ 38)
  • “When they returned to the office, a short time later, all materials that had been on the coffee table had been moved and the meeting ended abruptly.” (¶ 39)

In addition, the complaint alleges that, contrary to film industry tradition, their script was not returned until two years after Disney informed the writers that the company was going to pass on their project, about 8 months prior to the premiere of the Curse of the Black Pearl in July 2003.

However, the authors provide no explanation whatsoever for why they waited more than 14 years to bring their lawsuit, despite admitting that “upon viewing the first film,” they realized the many similarities between it and their original screenplay. In addition, because of the early stage of the process, Disney has yet to respond to either confirm or refute the various factual allegations made. This is not the first time Disney has faced a lawsuit over the Pirates franchise. Disney defeated a lawsuit in 2015 brought by a different artist related to theme park art.

The lawsuit is pending before Judge Philip A. Brimmer, Case no. 1:17-cv-02729

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