While Hollywood is currently in an uproar over sexual harassment allegations, now Hollywood faces a massive lawsuit regarding stolen technology.
THR reports that Disney, Marvel Studios, Fox and Paramount knowingly used stolen technology to create digital effects, which includes Guardians of the Galaxy, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Deadpool and Night at the Museum.
The reports states software called MOVA, which captures facial expressions to create photorealistic computer graphic effects, was stolen and eventually landed in the hands of the Chinese. The FBI investigated the incident as economic espionage, and the software’s creator, Rearden LLC and Steve Perlman, waged litigation with the Chinese company and won. Now, Rearden is suing the customers of the stolen technology — Disney, Fox and Paramount — who find their blockbuster movies the subject of intellectual property claims.
The article notes the studios “can’t dispute the truth of the allegations — not only did they use stolen technology, they did so knowingly.” The article further states the studios didn’t care that the technology was stolen, and offers that the studios countered the lawsuit with an argument that the software doesn’t own the copyright, but “whatever shows up onscreen is primarily the product of human input, namely film direction and an actor’s performance.”
An example (by my understanding) would be the use of James Spader in Avengers 2 for Ultron or Bradley Cooper in Guardians of the Galaxy for Rocket Raccoon. The actors faces were recorded digitally, and then the software outputted the footage of Ultron and Rocket.
Obviously, the judge will have to decide who owns the copyright, but the studios knowingly using stolen technology is rather upsetting. We all know the studios go after pirates and torrents, but they don’t have a problem using stolen tech when it comes to making their own movies? Seems a bit hypocritical and obviously downright criminal.
I’m guessing the lawsuit won’t make its way through the courts as more than likely some sort of settlement will eventually be made.
Still, it makes you think twice the next time you see Rocket Racoon and Groot on the big screen.
We can probably guess the same stolen tech is also being used to create Thanos in The Avengers: Infinity War movies (assuming Disney hasn’t changed it out).
Interestingly enough, Warner Bros. wasn’t named, so we can assume they must have been using different technology, which means Disney, Fox and Paramount could have used the same tech that WB used, but chose not to and chose to use the stolen tech.
You can read the brief here, which specifically names The Walt Disney Company, Marvel Studios, Fox and Paramount as defendants.