Are you excited to see Justin Timberlake in the film In Time next month? Well if author Harlan Ellison has his way, you never well. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the legendary science-fiction writer has filed a suit against the filmmakers and the production company behind In Time, alleging that the plot of the film is essentially a rip-off of his story Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman. Ellison is demanding the release of the film be prevented and that every existing copy be destroyed. Wow, he’s going for the throat on this one!
There may be some legitimacy to Ellison’s claim here. Apparently there is a laundry list of similarities between his story and the plot of the upcoming film. Both works take place in a future wherein people are designated a finite amount of time to live, a character called a timekeeper is in charge of managing everyone’s time, and there is a revolt lead by the protagonist. Ellison has actually worked against his story being adapted to film for years, and only just last year made a deal for a third party to create a screenplay based on that story so it could be adapted in the future. Problem is, as of now, no one’s purchased the rights to do so and yet In Time seems to be utilizing that script. The similarities were enough to have critic Richard Roeper, after an early screening, operating under the assumption that In Time was based on Ellison’s story.
Stealing other people’s material is never acceptable, no argument there. But there’s something about demanding the destruction of every copy of a film that just feels unconscionable. Ellison has made quite a reputation for himself as an incredibly litigious artist. He has filed lawsuits against everyone from Gene Roddenbery (over an episode of the original Star Trek series) to James Cameron (claiming elements of The Terminator were his idea). Though he may have a stronger case here than in those instances, the restitution he’s asking for is too steep. Ellison should definitely be financially compensated for his original work if there was actual copyright infringement here, but can you imagine if he had demanded James Cameron destroy every copy of The Terminator? Or worse…if he had won?
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