North Carolina Teacher Alleges Netflix is Liable for Copyright Infringement After Release of Young Adult Series “Outer Banks”
Steven T. Lowe
Kevin Wooten is a high school English teacher from North Carolina that has written the adventure novel Pennywise: The Hunt for Blackbeard’s Treasure. Within Wooten’s novel, a group of teenagers living in the Outer Banks region of the North Carolina coast finds hidden treasure. After Wooten published his novel in 2016, Netflix released the first season of their show Outer Banks in 2020, a mystery adventure series where a group of teenage friends search for treasure after the disappearance of the protagonist’s father. Wooten was so surprised by the many similarities between his novel and the Netflix show that he filed suit against the streaming service for copyright infringement on December 21, 2020.
Wooten alleges that the Netflix show creators had access to his novel because the similarities between the two works are so striking that the defendants could not have created the show independently. For example, the protagonists in both works have similar backgrounds and missing parents. Both works include wealthy antagonists and corrupt law enforcement officers. The protagonists in both the novel and show also discover important hints inside a shipwreck, which eventually helps them reach the treasure.
Netflix has responded by filing a motion to dismiss Wooten’s lawsuit because they allege that the similarities between the two works are so abstract that there can be no copyright protection. They also allege that Wooten has mischaracterized the show to make it appear more similar to his novel.
Kevin Wooten is represented by Marcy L. Sperry and Melissa F. Castro of Sperry IP Law doing business as Vivid IP.
Netflix is represented by Russell E. Blythe, Arwen Johnson, and Kelly Perigoe of King & Spalding LLP.
The case is Kevin Wooten v. Netflix Inc. et al., case number 1:20-cv-05166, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
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