On May 25th, 2021, Chief U.S. Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. of the Northern District of Georgia tossed a copyright infringement suit against Netflix and the creators of its hit television show “Outer Banks.” “Outer Banks” is a mystery adventure series where a group of teenage friends searches for treasure after the disappearance of the protagonist’s father. Netflix released the first season of “Outer Banks” in 2020, with a second season airing at the end of July 2021.
Kevin Wooten (“Wooten”), an author and high school English teacher, filed the copyright lawsuit in 2020, alleging that the Netflix show creators infringed upon his 2016 novel, “Pennywise: The Hunt for Blackbeard’s Treasure!”
In the December 2020 complaint, Wooten alleged that the Netflix show creators had access to his novel because the similarities between the two works were so striking that the defendants couldn’t have created the show independently.
In response to the lawsuit, Netflix Inc. and “Outer Banks” co-creators Daniel Burke, Jonas Pate, and Joshua Pate filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that Wooten’s case was meritless because the alleged similarities were too generic to warrant copyright protection.
Judge Batten agreed. According to the court’s decision, Judge Batten noted that to analyze the plots of both works at such a high level of abstraction would render every work involving a hunt for buried treasure susceptible to copyright infringement. Additionally, Judge Batten determined that “Outer Banks” is more intense, intricate, and dismal in subject matter, plot, and pace than Wooten’s “Pennywise: The Hunt for Blackbeard’s Treasure!”
In this case, the plaintiff was represented by counsel. Thus, without having compared the works, this author believes as a general rule that these types of cases are summarily dismissed far too often; most likely, the plaintiff deserved a fairer shake.
Wooten is represented by Marcy L. Sperry and Melissa F. Castro of Sperry IP Law LLC, doing business as Vivid IP.
Netflix and the show’s co-creators are represented by Arwen R. Johnson, Kelly Perigoe, and Russell E. Blythe of King & Spalding LLP.
The case is Wooten v. Netflix Inc. et al., case number 1:20-cv-5166, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
* Lowe & Associates (“The Firm”) is an entertainment and business law firm located in Beverly Hills, California. The Firm has extensive experience handling cases involving copyright law, having provided top-quality legal services to its clients since 1991. The Firm is recognized for its many achievements, including successfully litigating many high-profile cases.
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