Author Sues Netflix for Copyright Infringement Over Don’t Look Up

A self-published author claims that writer-director Adam McKay took inspiration from his novel for the award-winning Netflix film, Don’t Look Up. Read on for details!

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Promotional poster for Netflix's "Don't Look Up," characters looking up at the sky in awe and pointing.

The 2021 film Don’t Look Up is a black comedy about two astronomers who try to warn society about a comet on the path to destroy humanity. With an all-star ensemble cast, the Netflix film received positive reviews from critics and scientists alike, as well as dozens of award nominations. Now, author William Collier alleges that the film shares substantial similarities to his self-published novel, leading him to file a lawsuit against both Netflix and Adam McKay. Continue reading for more!

The Lawsuit

On Wednesday, December 6, 2023, self-published author William Collier filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California for copyright infringement. The lawsuit names Netflix, Adam McKay, and McKay’s production company, Hyperobject Industries, as defendants.

Collier claims Don’t Look Up, a 2021 film written and directed by McKay, is significantly similar to his book, In Extremis: Two Novels, which he self-published in 2012. The first of the two novels, entitled Stanley’s Comet, tells the humorous story of an assistant copy shop manager and a low-level NASA scientist who discover a giant comet barreling toward Earth and try to warn humanity about the impending danger. Collier registered the book with the U.S. Copyright Office in 2022.

In 2007, before publishing the novel, Collier states he sent his daughter Adrienne an email with a copy of Stanley’s Comet for the consideration of Jimmy Miller Entertainment, where Adrienne was employed in the Mosaic Media division. At the time, Jimmy Miller Entertainment was McKay’s manager. The lawsuit claims that McKay’s story of how he came up with the idea for Don’t Look Up is inconsistent across different interviews. Additionally, it alleges that McKay’s credited co-writer, David Sirota, didn’t take part in writing the script at all. Rather, Sirota’s only contribution is said to be an offhand comment he made to McKay in which he likened climate change to a comet.

Don't Look Up poster, characters looking up at the sky in shock and awe.
IMAGE VIA NETFLIX

Collier claims that his story and Don’t Look Up share several themes and plotlines, an assertion echoed by the lawsuit:

The plot of both works is practically identical…Low level scientists find a large comet that is headed straight towards Earth and is going to destroy the Earth and wipe out all humanity in a matter of time. In conveying this message to the public, the scientists go on a morning talk show (which undermines the urgency and nature of the matter) which then causes most people to be unbothered by it. Even the presidents and government leaders downplay the comet’s apocalyptic effect. Eventually, the comet is visible to the citizens of planet Earth and mayhem ensues as the comet is rapidly approaching.

Variety

The film stars a handful of high-profile performers, such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Tyler Perry, Timothée Chalamet, and Meryl Streep. Following its release to streaming on December 24, 2021, Don’t Look Up was nominated for several prestigious awards, including an Oscar for best original screenplay. Now, Collier is seeking a minimum of $5 million in damages for what he claims was an intentional theft of his ideas.


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FEATURED IMAGE VIA NETFLIX