By Jeff Todd
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (CBS4) – A small Colorado Springs law firm is getting ready to take on Disney, accusing the media conglomerate of stealing the work of two young aspiring screenwriters.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Denver says Disney took the screenplay from Arthur Alfred and Ezequiel Martinez and ended up making a multibillion dollar franchise.
“These were minority writers who had just been admitted to the Writers Guild on Disney’s dime, and they were terrified about what kind of retribution would come,” said Greg Maceau who is representing Alfred and Martinez.
The lawsuit says the writers worked with Disney on another project called “Red Hood.”
As the relationship blossomed, they told officials at Disney about an idea for “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
“Disney told them about two weeks later that they weren’t going to act on the project,” Maceau said.
But, the script wasn’t returned to Martinez until a few months before the 2003 premiere of “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl.”
“I think it shows they took the script, probably passed it on to some of their internal writers who then took the very material that we believe was copyrighted.”
The suit claims the writers originated the idea of pirates being happy or goofy as portrayed by Captain Jack Sparrow and about 200 other direct references from the original treatment.
“They created a supernatural element with the ghost ship and the skeleton crew, all of that was taken and then there are just myriads of direct quotes taken from the screenplay,” Maceau said. “If you look at the third movie and how it opens on the screen, you’ll see how it just parrots the sizzle reel that was submitted by our writers.”
Disney emailed a statement to CBS4, “This complaint is entirely without merit, and we look forward to vigorously defending against it in court.”
While the case has taken 17 years to reach court, Maceau says he’s hopeful the unique venue will benefit the writiers.
Many cases that have been filed in or around Los Angeles have previously sided with movie studios.
“We believe there’s clearly a copyright infringement here,” Maceau said.
Jeff Todd joined the CBS4 team in 2011 covering the Western Slope in the Mountain Newsroom. Since 2015 he’s been working across the Front Range in the Denver Headquarters. Follow him on Twitter @CBS4Jeff.