Justice League a Stolen Script?
Justice League is about to undergo a new beginning. With the Snyder Cut about to premiere on HBOMax, it is a highly-anticipated, and controversial, film. Much has been written about toxic Snyder fans, and the behind-the-scenes chaos of the film. But now, there are allegations of plagiarism. A writer known only as “Apocalypse Nightshade” has accused DC Comics and Warner Brothers of stealing his script. On his website, Nightshade alleges numerous points where several scenes were lifted wholesale from his script. The scenes in question range from Batman v Superman, the theatrical cut of Justice League, and the upcoming Snyder Cut. Nightshade explains the scenario thus:
In 2014 I wrote a spec script for “the justice league” and posted it online and years later major portions of my script were stolen and used in two Warner Bros/DC comic “justice league”movies without my permission or compensation.
My script, called
“ justice league – a heroes call” has been online since May 2014 on the original website with the original posted date and anyone can view it and all of the extreme similarities for themselves
(you you have to join (it’s free) to see the original posted date)
My script was downloaded over 87,000 times and possibly shared millions more. At the time six articles were written about it and comic book fans dubbed it
“ The leaked justice league script”.
Nightshade then states he sent the script to several WB and DC executives.
This is what Nightshade alleges:
THIS MUST BE SAID:
THERE IS A POSSIBILITY THAT IF MY SCRIPT REACHED THE DESK OF DIRECTORS AND PRODUCERS OF THESE MOVIES THEY MIGHT HAVE ASSUMED THAT THEY HAD BOUGHT AND PAID FOR THE SCRIPT AND HAD THE RIGHT TO USE ANY PART OF IT. AND ITS POSSIBLE THAT MY PAYMENT AND RECOGNITION FOR IT SLIPT THROUGH THE CRACKS OF TWO VERY LARGE CORPORATIONS IN SOME TYPE OF CLERICAL ERROR.- I HOPE THIS IS THE CASE AND THIS IS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR DC COMICS AND WARNER BROTHERS TO CORRECT THAT ERROR AND COMPENSATE ME FOR MY CONTRIBUTION. IF IT WAS DELIBERATE THEN I AM CURRENTLY SEEKING LEGAL REPRESENTATION TO FULLY AND FINALLY HAVE MY DAY IN COURT SO THAT A JUDGE, JURY AND THE COMIC BOOK AND MOVIE GOING FANS CAN DECIDE WETHER I WAS ROBBED OR NOT.
Murky Legal Waters
While there are some similarities between the various scenes, this would be a hard case to prove in court. For one, you NEVER EVER upload something online for free, even fanfic, without some sort of copyright protection. For example, my old fanfics were uploaded to Deviantart, which provides a sort of copyright protection. These include two decade-old attempts at film scripts that currently make me cringe while reading them.
Secondly, even if it was a “spec script”, unless Warner Brothers asked for it, they legally cannot read it. I know this because I sent DC Comics an unsolicited comic script in the past, which they sent back unread. With it, they included a very nice rejection letter explaining why. I don’t know if Nightshade got a similar letter or not, but WB would likely not read the script. However, he did get a rejection letter from the CAA:
None of the Scripps (sic) were returned but I did receive an email from CAA stating that they do not except (sic) unsolicited material. I still have the email.
Furthermore, Nightshade alleges he sent the scripts to several people. Two of them, Zack and Deborah Snyder, would have been busy in developing Batman v Superman. And Snyder’s own Justice League plans changed during the production of that film. Another person that was sent the script was Christopher Nolan. Nolan, though a producer on Man of Steel, did not reprise that role for further DC films. Producer Charles Rovin was sent it as well, but he would not have likely read it, per WB policy. Finally, the script was sent to Christian Bale, as it was assumed he would be back as Batman. As we know, that was not the case.
My Verdict: Does Justice Prevail?
Similarities, while upsetting, are not always proof of plagiarism. Some of Nightshade’s claims on his website are also a bit of a stretch. And by his own admission, he got at least one email saying they don’t read or accept unsolicited material. If this was to be brought to court, it would be a very uphill battle to prove plagiarism. While I feel for a fellow creative who wants to make sure things are right, the evidence might not be in their favor. Even as someone who can be harsh towards Zack Snyder, I have doubts about the merits of these accusations.