Bond franchise producers Danjaq and distributors MGM have taken offense to a project that Universal is developing that chronicles the early years of the British intelligence unit known as MI6 and have filed a copyright infringement suit against the studio to stop the film from being made.
Fans of the Bond franchise will of course note that is the very real agency that the fictional superspy is employed by, so that on the surface it doesn’t sound like Sony would have much of a leg to stand on. However, the studio is claiming that the screenplay, by Aaron Berg and which landed in second place on last year’s Black List, utilizes some of the fictional elements that Bond’s literary creator Ian Fleming developed when he was first writing the espionage novels on which the film franchise is based.
According to the suit (via Variety) –
This lawsuit concerns a motion picture project, in active development, featuring a daring, tuxedo-clad British secret agent, employed by ‘His Majesty’s Secret Service,’ with a ‘license to kill,’ and a 00 (double-O) secret agent number on a mission to save England from the diabolical plot of a megalomanical villain… Most moviegoers would assume from that description alone that this lawsuit concerns the next James Bond picture. It does not. This lawsuit is instead about a James Bond knockoff that defendant Universal is readying for production, based on a screenplay that defendant Berg wrote.
The suit goes on to allege that Berg’s screenplay “misappropriates from the James Bond works far beyond the signature aspects of James Bond,” by copying “in detail nearly every aspect of the characters, plots dialogue, themes. setting, mood and other key elements of the copyrighted James Bond literary works and motion pictures.”
That’s definitely a heady accusation to make and it should be interesting to see how this plays out in court. If anything, there could very well be a succession of Ian Fleming/James Bond and British military and intelligence scholars taking the stand, which sounds like something I would watch on Court TV if they chose to air it.
However, there is some doubt that Sony’s characterization of Section 6. The studio charges in its suit that Universal has refused to share the most recent draft of the screenplay for the film which has led them to believe “Universal is continuing to develop a screenplay that constitutes an unauthorized derivative work based upon plaintiffs’ copyrighted James Bond works.”
MGM and Danjaq are seeking an injunction to prevent Universal from proceeding with the project. For its part, Universal has already hired Attack The Block director Joe Cornish and Unbroken star Jack O’Connell.