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John Carpenter wins plagiarism case against EuropaCorp & Lockout filmmakers

10.16.2015

Lockout John Carpenter Guy Pearce Banner

2012's LOCKOUT starring Guy Pearce has been described by more than a few as an ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK ripoff, and apparently director John Carpenter didn't take too kindly to how much the filmmakers "borrowed" from his movie for their sci-fi actioner. Carpenter has won a plagiarism suit against production company EuropaCorp and screenwriters Luc Besson, Stephen St. Leger and James Mather, with a French court ruling that they are guilty of lifting plot elements from the 1981 dystopian film.

EuropaCorp has been ordered to pay 50,000 Euros to the rights owner of the movie, 20,000 to Carpenter and 10,000 to Nick Castle, Carpenter's ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK co-writer.

Excerpt of the ruling from Observatoire européen de l'audiovisuel:

In reaching its decision, the court recalled that although ideas are free to be used and there could be no protection merely for the theme of a film, it was nevertheless possible to consider whether the form of the film was not a characteristic feature, and whether its reproduction was such as to constitute infringement of copyright; this was determined by considering similarities rather than differences. The court therefore embarked on a detailed comparison of the plot and development of the films, their characters, and the sequences filmed, in order to determine the similarities between the works and deteremine whether these were sufficiently significant to be characteristic of infringement of copyright.

A number of elements present in both [Escape from New York] and ‘Lock-Out’ could in fact be considered as stock elements in the cinema. Other elements differed, such as the pace of the film and the special effects, but this could be because of the amount of time that had passed between the releases of the two films - 1981 and 2012 - and by the evolution in both techniques and mentalities in the intervening period. The court nevertheless noted many similarities between the two science-fiction films: both presented an athletic, rebellious and cynical hero, sentenced to a period of isolated incarceration - despite his heroic past - who is given the offer of setting out to free the President of the United States or his daughter held hostage in exchange for his freedom; he manages, undetected, to get inside the place where the hostage is being held, after a flight in a glider/space shuttle, and finds there a former associate who dies; he pulls off the mission in extremis, and at the end of the film keeps the secret documents recovered in the course of the mission.

The court held that the combination of these elements, which gave the film [Escape from New York] its particular appearance and originality, had been reproduced in ‘Lock-Out’, apart from certain scenes and specific details that were only present in the first film. The difference in the location of the action and the more modern character featured in ‘Lock-Out’ was not enough to differentiate the two films. The disputed film seemed to be in the same vein as [Escape from New York], and this had indeed been picked up in a number of press articles.

LOCKOUT isn't the first movie to be accused of swiping story and plot elements from a film, but it can be very difficult to prove, so I'm a little surprised that Carpenter won his case against EuropaCorp. Do you agree with the court's decision?

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4:06PM on 10/19/2015

I've always referred to Lockout as Escape from Earth...

I had heard somewhere that would be the last Snake Plisken movie and since JC and Russell were never going to do it I kind of compromised. I kind of did the same thing with Taken, swapping out Liam Neeson's retired special ops agent character for The Punisher. I consider it to be the closest thing to a real Punisher MAX movie ever made.
I had heard somewhere that would be the last Snake Plisken movie and since JC and Russell were never going to do it I kind of compromised. I kind of did the same thing with Taken, swapping out Liam Neeson's retired special ops agent character for The Punisher. I consider it to be the closest thing to a real Punisher MAX movie ever made.
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11:02AM on 10/19/2015
Kind of strange, considering the plot of Assault on Precinct 13 is uncomfortably close to the plot of Rio Bravo. One must note this happened in a French court, as the case probably would have been tossed out of an American court.
Kind of strange, considering the plot of Assault on Precinct 13 is uncomfortably close to the plot of Rio Bravo. One must note this happened in a French court, as the case probably would have been tossed out of an American court.
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5:02PM on 10/18/2015
Although I haven't seen the Lockout sounds like this is essentially a reboot of Escape from New York, which I thought I heard they were working on. I could see how he would be upset and I'm surprised he won but with the summary presented above it sounds like an undeniable rip-off.
Although I haven't seen the Lockout sounds like this is essentially a reboot of Escape from New York, which I thought I heard they were working on. I could see how he would be upset and I'm surprised he won but with the summary presented above it sounds like an undeniable rip-off.
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4:03PM on 10/18/2015
Seriously? I suppose Mr. Carpenter can do what he likes if he feels his film was plagiarized. I did see the similarities, but not to the point that you would sue. Seriously? If anything I felt it was just a nice homage.
Seriously? I suppose Mr. Carpenter can do what he likes if he feels his film was plagiarized. I did see the similarities, but not to the point that you would sue. Seriously? If anything I felt it was just a nice homage.
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1:36PM on 10/17/2015
Generally if you're going to borrow concepts in the creative media, it's best to borrow from a few sources, preferably varied ones. If people can say "the thing you've made is really similar to this one other thing" then you're probably not borrowing ideas sensibly. I wouldn't say Lockout was necessarily the most Escape From New York film I've ever seen, and I'm surprised they judged in Carpenter's favour, but rights-holders will often pursue judgment in the French courts because copyright laws
Generally if you're going to borrow concepts in the creative media, it's best to borrow from a few sources, preferably varied ones. If people can say "the thing you've made is really similar to this one other thing" then you're probably not borrowing ideas sensibly. I wouldn't say Lockout was necessarily the most Escape From New York film I've ever seen, and I'm surprised they judged in Carpenter's favour, but rights-holders will often pursue judgment in the French courts because copyright laws are upheld there pretty strictly compared to many countries. Carpenter's in the position where he's created or popularised certain cinematic tropes that kinda feel like they belong to everyone now - I don't begrudge him defending his intellectual property, but that kind of 'anti-hero begrudgingly on a mission' setup he did so well in his Kurt Russell vehicles - that's just something people love and want to see / make films about.
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6:59AM on 10/17/2015

Huh???

Don't get me wrong, Carpenter is my favorite director ever actually, but isn't this calling the kettle black? He remade 'Rio Bravo'...TWICE!! 'Assault on Precinct 13' and 'Ghost of Mars' borrowed heavily from Howard Hawk's film in terms of character relationships, themes and premise whereas 'Lockout' was really just inspired by the premise. Fair enough, he thinks he was done wrong but still he got away with blurring the same principles and no one called him out for it. Shame too, I'd just
Don't get me wrong, Carpenter is my favorite director ever actually, but isn't this calling the kettle black? He remade 'Rio Bravo'...TWICE!! 'Assault on Precinct 13' and 'Ghost of Mars' borrowed heavily from Howard Hawk's film in terms of character relationships, themes and premise whereas 'Lockout' was really just inspired by the premise. Fair enough, he thinks he was done wrong but still he got away with blurring the same principles and no one called him out for it. Shame too, I'd just rather see him make a new movie then sit on his butt and cash cheques.
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2:01PM on 10/17/2015
um have you seen "THE WARD"?
um have you seen "THE WARD"?
2:23PM on 10/18/2015
yeah it was terrible but still im a diehard fan and can hope he's still got one decent one left in him.
yeah it was terrible but still im a diehard fan and can hope he's still got one decent one left in him.
1:31AM on 10/17/2015

GO JC!!!!!!!!!

I think John carpenter got burned by Hollywood, and sadly The Ward will be his last directed movie.
THIS (Lockout) movie I've NEVER even heard of, but yes the trailer does look like they swiped liberally from Escape from New York, Escape from LA (which was basically another Escape from New York remake) and uh... FORTRESS (and FORTRESS 2 I think... cant really remember too much about the plot of that one) those two "hello I'm a prison in space and you have to escape, but you cant because we're
I think John carpenter got burned by Hollywood, and sadly The Ward will be his last directed movie.
THIS (Lockout) movie I've NEVER even heard of, but yes the trailer does look like they swiped liberally from Escape from New York, Escape from LA (which was basically another Escape from New York remake) and uh... FORTRESS (and FORTRESS 2 I think... cant really remember too much about the plot of that one) those two "hello I'm a prison in space and you have to escape, but you cant because we're prisons set in space." movies
SO GO JOHN CARPENTER!!!!
It looks very much like they took an old 1st draft script from the Escape from new York remakes (wasn't that also with Guy Pearce? or was that Gerhard Butler? I dunno....)
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6:35PM on 10/16/2015
If Lockout went through the proper channels and changed it's title to Escape From New York (and in the film they called the prison New York) everyone would be okay because the artistic theft would be consider a remake or reboot. It's funny how theft by another name is perfectly okay.
If Lockout went through the proper channels and changed it's title to Escape From New York (and in the film they called the prison New York) everyone would be okay because the artistic theft would be consider a remake or reboot. It's funny how theft by another name is perfectly okay.
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4:56PM on 10/16/2015
Nice!
Nice!
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1:50PM on 10/16/2015
On the one hand, Lockout sure sounds like a blatant rip-off, and critics said as much at the time. On the other hand, John Carpenter did the same thing with Assault of Precinct 13. The more I think about this, the more I think what it says about John Carpenter is greater than what it says about Luc Besson.
On the one hand, Lockout sure sounds like a blatant rip-off, and critics said as much at the time. On the other hand, John Carpenter did the same thing with Assault of Precinct 13. The more I think about this, the more I think what it says about John Carpenter is greater than what it says about Luc Besson.
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1:23PM on 10/16/2015
I think Skyfall needs reviewing after this. Chris Nolan and John Hughes (representative) should be going over that film with a fine comb.
I think Skyfall needs reviewing after this. Chris Nolan and John Hughes (representative) should be going over that film with a fine comb.
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12:12PM on 10/16/2015
Good for JC ....so sad today noone has original ideas anymore...reboots and remixes are the norm now and lots of plagiarism .
Good for JC ....so sad today noone has original ideas anymore...reboots and remixes are the norm now and lots of plagiarism .
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11:00AM on 10/16/2015
It's hard to say, really. I mean, lots of B movies have Borrowed elements from his movies. Case in point: ROTOR is a cheap imitation of unstoppable robot like Terminator. I'm just surprised that John Carpenter actually brought this matter to court. This could be a huge milestone for people thinking other people have copied their movies.
It's hard to say, really. I mean, lots of B movies have Borrowed elements from his movies. Case in point: ROTOR is a cheap imitation of unstoppable robot like Terminator. I'm just surprised that John Carpenter actually brought this matter to court. This could be a huge milestone for people thinking other people have copied their movies.
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10:54AM on 10/16/2015

I love Carpenter but...

It's funny how he will go from saying he doesn't care if people remake his movies into shit like The Fog remake, because he likes the checks in his mailbox, but he will get pissed about this.
It's funny how he will go from saying he doesn't care if people remake his movies into shit like The Fog remake, because he likes the checks in his mailbox, but he will get pissed about this.
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2:08AM on 10/17/2015
thats because he WAS NOT compensated and credited for LOCKOUT...

he WAS compensated for the remake to The Fog, and he WAS credited as a writer on the 2005 remake so no matter how shitty a remake, he got paid... but he didnt for LOCKOUT.

you wouldnt care either if you got paid for it.
thats because he WAS NOT compensated and credited for LOCKOUT...

he WAS compensated for the remake to The Fog, and he WAS credited as a writer on the 2005 remake so no matter how shitty a remake, he got paid... but he didnt for LOCKOUT.

you wouldnt care either if you got paid for it.
10:21AM on 10/16/2015

FTW

Good for him, but when did Carpenter become the grumpy old guy telling kids to get off his lawn?
Good for him, but when did Carpenter become the grumpy old guy telling kids to get off his lawn?
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2:09AM on 10/17/2015
somewhere between 2010 and 2012 apparently because I think The Ward (2010) will be his last flick.
somewhere between 2010 and 2012 apparently because I think The Ward (2010) will be his last flick.
10:03AM on 10/16/2015

Small potatoes...

Good win for Carpenter, but only 20,000 euros... Will this inspire Kathryn Bigelow to sue the makers of Fast & Furious for ripping off Point Break?
Good win for Carpenter, but only 20,000 euros... Will this inspire Kathryn Bigelow to sue the makers of Fast & Furious for ripping off Point Break?
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10:18AM on 10/16/2015
yeah, only 20 000 euros, i was surprised too...
and yeah, I never understodd why FF is not referenced as an official remake of Point Break...
funny, you talk about Bigelow, because she sued Besson for his Joan of Arc movie " the Messenger ", claiming he copied her script...
yeah, only 20 000 euros, i was surprised too...
and yeah, I never understodd why FF is not referenced as an official remake of Point Break...
funny, you talk about Bigelow, because she sued Besson for his Joan of Arc movie " the Messenger ", claiming he copied her script...
11:47AM on 10/16/2015
Huh... I never heard about that one. Seams like Besson isn't quite as original as I had thought. I actually liked the messenger because it was such an odd take on the story
Huh... I never heard about that one. Seams like Besson isn't quite as original as I had thought. I actually liked the messenger because it was such an odd take on the story
5:50PM on 10/16/2015
totally agree if this is guilty then fast and furious is almost scene for scene ripoff of point break
totally agree if this is guilty then fast and furious is almost scene for scene ripoff of point break
9:58AM on 10/16/2015

not surprised at all...

I remember watching Lockout at the theater and saying to a friend at the end of it : " is this a tribute to Carpenter's Escape from NY ???? ". Movie was fun by the way....
I don't know what to think : where the tribute ends, where the plagiarism begins ??? Everybody copies everybody, I remember reading an interwien of mamoru Oshi pissed off by the plagiarism of the Wachowskis for The Matrix, I dunno if he sued them...
I remember watching Lockout at the theater and saying to a friend at the end of it : " is this a tribute to Carpenter's Escape from NY ???? ". Movie was fun by the way....
I don't know what to think : where the tribute ends, where the plagiarism begins ??? Everybody copies everybody, I remember reading an interwien of mamoru Oshi pissed off by the plagiarism of the Wachowskis for The Matrix, I dunno if he sued them...
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2:04PM on 10/17/2015
movie tributes give credit to the person or people they are paying tribute too... usually in the credits.
LOCKOUT didnt. Carpenter just wants credit where credit is due, all Eurotrash had to do was say "characters inspired by John Carpenter" and pay him a dish of money.... they didnt.
movie tributes give credit to the person or people they are paying tribute too... usually in the credits.
LOCKOUT didnt. Carpenter just wants credit where credit is due, all Eurotrash had to do was say "characters inspired by John Carpenter" and pay him a dish of money.... they didnt.
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