AMC are embroiled in yet another big bucks legal battle involving the lucrative “The Walking Dead” franchise, but this time Frank Darabont doesn’t have anything to do with it, at least not yet.
The cable network, “TWD” creator Robert Kirkman and his Skybound shingle, Gale Anne Hurd’s Valhalla Entertainment and executive producer David Alpert are all among those named in a copyright suit from Mel Smith that says the second season of “Fear The Walking Dead” was lifted from his “Dead Ahead” comic series. “Within the last three years, defendants, and each of them, infringed plaintiff’s copyright in ‘DEAD AHEAD’ by, among other things, broadcasting or otherwise exploiting the second season of ‘FEAR THE WALKING DEAD,’ ” says the succinct complaint filed in federal court in California this week (read it here). “Portions of that season’s 13 episodes were copied from plaintiff’s copyrighted literary work ‘DEAD AHEAD.’”
Like most dead letter office rip-off claims, Smith is seeking a wide array of damages and a jury trial. Unlike most dead letter office rip-off claims, Smith says that “FearTWD” EP and Kirkman biz partner Alpert used to be his “agent representative for the purposes of consulting with motion picture and television studios on the use or exploitation of ‘DEAD AHEAD.’”
“Defendant ALPERT violated and continues to violate his fiduciary obligation to plaintiff by engaging in a pattern and practice of self-dealing, placing his own interests ahead of the interests of his principal and client, wrongfully depriving plaintiff income from the use and exploitation of ‘DEAD AHEAD,’ including the ideas embodied therein, and using his principal’s and client’s intellectual property to enrich himself,” says the complaint from San Francisco firm Phillips, Erlewine, Given & Carlin LLP. “In so doing, defendant ALPERT failed both to preserve his confidential communications with plaintiff and to disclose to plaintiff the conflict inherent in his business and creative involvement with the other named defendants,” it goes on to state.
“All the other defendants named above knew or, in the exercise of reasonable diligence, should have known of defendant ALPERT’s fiduciary relationship with plaintiff,” the seven-page filing adds in a line that carries greater weight based on how close professionally Alpert and Kirkman are.
AMC had no response to a request for comment on the latest lawsuit when contacted by Deadline Wednesday.
However, in a franchise where ex-showrunner Darabont and CAA have been after AMC in court for nearly $300 million over owned “TWD” and “FearTWD” profits for almost five years and Kirkman, Hurd and Alpert are also locked in a legal fight over money with the outlet since last summer, this could get very interesting.
Besides the Alpert connection, a significant portion of the second season of “FearTWD” was actually set on the ocean as Kim Dickens’ character and others sought to escape the chaos enveloping L.A. on the spinoff. Well, guess where most of the 2008 – 2010 running “Dead Ahead” comic series took place? Think about it a sec, are you swimming in ideas?
Yep, zombies at sea in a world besieged by a living dead plague.
That’s got to bite.
On one more note, while various AMC units, Kirkman, Skybound, Alpert, Vahalla and New Circle of Confusion Productions are all named as defendants in Smith’s suit, “FearTWD” co-creator and now former showrunner Dave Erickson interestingly is not. Expected to be a Comic-Con next month along with all the EPs and “TWD”, “Fear The Walking Dead” returns for the second half of its fourth and now Dickensless season on August 12.
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