Noted science-fiction author Harlan Ellison—whose sizable oeuvre has been somewhat marred by his own litigiousness—is suing yet again. Ellison claims that next month’s In Time, which stars Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, owes too much to his seminal story, “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman.”
From the Guardian:
According to Ellison’s suit, both works are based on the premise of a “dystopian corporate future in which everyone is allotted a specific amount of time to live.” The writer also says In Time lifts other concepts from his story, including the presence of authority figures known as “Timekeepers” who track the precise amount of time each citizen has left, and similarities in the way those whose time runs out meet their end.
Ellison is especially annoyed because, it turns out, he had just optioned his own story, only to discover that a similar movie was already on its way to theaters. And while Ellison may have a real copyright claim here, the terms of his suit—which demand that the movie go unreleased and all copies of the movie be destroyed—are outlandish. (Ellison’s suit also seeks compensation, of course.)
In 1976, the movie version of A Boy and His Dog, which was based on an Ellison story, won a Hugo Award. And though Ellison had nothing to do with the filmmaking, he complained that he ought to have received recognition, too. To placate him, the World Science Fiction Society presented Ellison with a piece of a statuette. (Harlan Ellison has 8 other Hugo Awards of his own.)
In a 2000 lawsuit, Ellison sued AOL and other ISPs after discovering four of his stories online. “If you put your hand in my pocket,” he told the New York Times in 2009, “you’ll drag back six inches of bloody stump.”
“I don’t ask to get rich off this stuff,” he also said. “I just ask to be paid.”