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MGM Accuses Universal of Making a James Bond Rip-off

Daniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure SKYFALL.

On Friday, MGM and Danjaq (the holding company responsible for all filmic representations of Ian Fleming's James Bond material) filed a lawsuit against a Universal project called Section 6. The Aaron Berg screenplay, which Universal bought last year for $1.2 million, tells the story of MI6's creation during World War I, and examines the spy agency's first director, George Mansfield Cummings. Though it's set well before the James Bond series begins, MGM still sees egregious overlap. 

From the April 3 filing: "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 secret agent number on a mission to save England from the diabolical plot of a megalomaniacal villain. Most moviegoers would assume from that description alone that this lawsuit concerns the next James Bond picture. It does not." 

Last fall, when lawyer Robert Schwartz sent a 20-page dossier detailing MGM and Danjaq’s concerns, Universal promised that Section 6 "would be very different from Berg's screenplay." However, when Schwartz requested to look at Universal’s material recently, "They said no, and we inferred from that that the script, even if they changed it, continued to infringe," he told The Wrap. "Therefore we needed to take legal action."

The suit goes on to say that, "Instead of creating something original, Universal and Berg decided to take an easier path, by freely helping themselves to vast portions of the copyright-protected expression that Ian Fleming created, and that Danjaq and MGM further developed over the last fifty-plus years.”

MGM and Danjaq are seeking unspecified damages and an injunction shutting down the Universal project, which would be bad news for a lot of people, including director Joe Cornish and lead Jack O'Connell.

Photo: Francois Duhamel/United Artists Corporation, Columbia Pictures Industries