“Repent, Timberlake!” Said the Lawyerman

In Time, a science fiction movie starring Justin Timberlake, hit a bump in the road on its way to a October 28 premiere when Harlan Ellison filed a copyright infringement suit against the filmmakers alleging they based their movie on Ellison’s 1965 short story “’Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman.”

The lawsuit, filed on September 14, asks the court to stop the film’s release and destroy all the copies. And it calls for all the profits to be turned over Ellison. While I can’t imagine how a movie that’s destroyed before ever being released is going to generate a profit, I don’t blame him for keeping one eye on Hollywood’s creative accountants.

The Hollywood Reporter says Ellison’s complaint contends that last year his company, The Kilimanjaro Corporation, “entered into an agreement with a third party to create a screenplay based on the story so that it could be sold or licensed to a Hollywood studio” and In Time is hurting the chances of his authorized film adaptation being made. The complaint also quotes the opinion of critic Richard Roeper who saw an advanced screening of In Time and believes it’s based on Ellison’s story.

David Klaus notes that a subhead in The Hollywood Reporter story calls Ellison a “sci-fi” writer, a term he’s well-known to regard as anathema. Will the headline writer be the next one to get a letter from the lawyer?

Interestingly, fans who read this story on other sites agree In Time rips off another writer’s work — but disagree that Ellison is the victim. One says the film is a gloss of Logan’s Run and another thinks it’s taken from Mandrake the Magician’s “Time Is Money”.

[Thanks to David Klaus and Andrew Porter for the story.]

2 thoughts on ““Repent, Timberlake!” Said the Lawyerman

  1. Writers in the youth of their career create new stories to sell. Aging or retired writers live increasingly off royalties from reprinting old work. Creatively dead writers sue anyone who does anything they think might bear a passing resemblance to something they wrote long ago.

  2. Harlan may be physically dead soon, to hear him tell it, but creatively dead? I don’t think so. Creatively he’s still the writer of dynamic stories he’s always been.

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