Stranger Things creators Matt and Ross Duffer are headed to trial on May 6 after failing to toss aside a case for the alleged plagiarism of the show brought forth by director Charlie Kessler. Kessler claims that the brothers stole his idea that he had allegedly pitched to them at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival based on his short film, Montauk. He continues to say that the brothers denied his idea of a sci-fi story set right next to a military base.
“Charlie Kessler asserts that he met the Duffers, then two young filmmakers whom Kessler never had heard of, and chatted with them for ten to fifteen minutes,” wrote the defendants’ attorney. “That casual conversation — during which the Duffers supposedly said that they all ‘should work together’ and asked ‘what [Kessler] was working on’ — is the sole basis for the alleged implied contract at issue in this lawsuit and for Kessler’s meritless theory that the Duffers used his ideas to create Stranger Things.”
The Duffer brothers’ lawyer claims that the duo did not “manifest any intent to enter into a binding agreement” with Kessler.
The plaintiff, Kessler’s attorneys, argue that the director should be compensated for his ideas:
“If Defendants made $1 million from writing and producing a Series, a show that exists solely because of the ideas pitched to them by Mr. Kessler under the implied contract, then Mr. Kessler’s damages for his share of the joint venture would be one-third of the monies received, or $333,333.33.”
Matt and Ross Duffer say that Kessler’s idea was not novel as the origins of it have previously been discussed before by theorists. LA Superior Judge Michael Stern ruled against summary judgment for the Duffer brothers due to lack of evidence required in the case.
“Without such admissible evidence, we are left with an issue of determining credibility that must be decided by the trier of fact,” rules the judge. “Moreover, whether or not there is a similarity between the concepts to be discerned by comparing them is a subissue of independent creation that must be decided by the trier of fact.”
The judge noted that according to California and New York law, there is no legal requirement for existing ideas to be “novel.” This is relevant to the case as the alleged pitch by Kessler to the Duffer brothers happened in New York and the lawsuit was filed in California.
Season 3 of Stranger Things will premiere on July 4. The contents of the case are very sensitive as Netflix and the Duffer Brothers do not want any information made public in regards to the show’s upcoming episodes.
“The Duffer Brothers have our full support,” says a Netflix spokesperson. “This case has no merit, which we look forward to being confirmed by a full hearing of the facts in court.”
Photo credit for Raymond Flotat.