Wednesday, January 12, 2005

another plagiarism lawsuit

Maybe this is old news to everyone else, but I only heard about it recently.

A friend of mine told me that a woman had won millions of dollars from the Wachowski brothers in a plagiarism lawsuit, having shown that she was the original author of the first Matrix movie. I was intrigued, because while I know lawsuits like this happen all the time, it's rare that someone can prove plagiarism. So I did a little searching online.

First I found posts on many Matrix discussion forums that all quoted the same article, which starts as follows:

Monday, October 4th 2004 ended a six-year dispute involving Sophia Stewart, the Wachowski Brothers, Joel Silver and Warner Brothers. Stewart's allegations, involving copyright infringement and racketeering, were received and acknowledged by the Central District of California, Judge Margaret Morrow residing.

Stewart, a New Yorker who has resided in Salt Lake City for the past five years, will recover damages from the films, The Matrix I, II and III, as well as The Terminator and its sequels. She will soon receive one of the biggest payoffs in the history of Hollywood, as the gross receipts of both films and their sequels total over 2.5 billion dollars.

The article goes on to say that crucial evidence was found during an FBI investigation of Warner Bros., and that Stewart was in talks with CBS about exclusive rights to the story of her victory. All pretty amazing.

It turned out that this article was originally published in The Salt Lake Community College Globe (here). Further searching revealed that the paper had retracted the story a few days later:

In reference to the recent article entitled "Mother of the Matrix Victorious," some information has been deemed misleading. Ms. Sophia Stewart has not yet won her case against Joel Silver, Time Warner and the Wachowski Bros. The decision on October 4th enabled Ms. Stewart to proceed with her case, as all attempts to have it dismissed were unsuccessful. Ms. Stewart's case will proceed through the Central District Court of California.

(here) "Misleading" seems like an understatement.

I then went to the website that detailed Sophia Stewart's claims, On this site, she says (among other things) that a different, longer version of the film was originally shown when it was first released, and that Warner Bros. recut it and rereleased it to avoid infringement. Supposedly the original cut had a text intro at the beginning, like Star Wars, describing a war that resulted in humans being used as batteries. She asks anyone who might have a bootleg copy of this original version to please send her a copy, to assist her with her case. There's no indication that the FBI has done any investigation related to this matter, but I guess she thinks they should. She's also recently begun accepting donations to help with her legal expenses.

So, we'll see how it plays out. Personally, I don't find her claims credible at all, but you should decide for yourselves. I do think it's interesting that an article published in a community college newspaper can generate so much publicity.


Blogger gwenda said...

Wasn't there something kind of similar a year or so ago where a funny item about Madonna being given an honorary doctorate somewhere based on a "news story" was posted on Maud Newton (or another lit site) and then Bookslut posted it... and it ended up running in several papers, even though it was just a humor item.

5:51 PM  
Blogger Vargas said...

The woman sounds mental. Still, I do think she has something of a case. Otherwise I think the case would have been dismissed by now.

12:25 AM  
Blogger Bug said...

Well, it's plagiarized all right. Turns out this little story was written almost 2500 years ago.

9:36 AM  

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