Stranger Things creators accused of plagiarising short film

The creators of hit TV series Stranger Things, Matt and Ross Duffer, have been accused of taking the idea for the Netflix show from a 2012 short film by director Charlie Kessler.

The brothers have dismissed the legal claim filed last week, which alleges that the series was based on Kessler’s film Montauk and an associated feature film script entitled The Montauk Project, as “completely meritless”.

The claim is brought on the basis of an alleged breach of an implied contract which arose when Kessler met the Duffer brothers at a premier party at the Tribeca film festival in 2014 and presented his ‘script, ideas, story and film’ to them.

Kessler says that this pitch took place “consistent with well-established customs and practices of the entertainment industry and on the mutually-understood condition and bilateral expectation that Defendants would not disclose, use and/or exploit” the concepts behind his work.

He alleges that the Duffer brothers “repackaged” his concepts as their own in producing Stranger Things.

The lawsuit includes claims for injunctions and damages.

Kessler’s film uses found footage to describe paranormal phenomena around a government facility, while Stranger Things also involves supernatural phenomena surrounding a government lab.

Kessler has said that he only found out about the series in 2015, when Netflix referred to it with its original title: Montauk.

The setting of the show was then changed to a fictional small town of Hawkins, Indiana, and its name was altered.

The Duffer brothers’ lawyer Alex Kohner said in a statement to the Press Association: “Mr Kessler’s claim is completely meritless.

“He had no connection to the creation or development of Stranger Things.

“The Duffer Brothers have neither seen Mr Kessler’s short film nor discussed any project with him.

“This is just an attempt to profit from other people’s creativity and hard work.”

Following the filing of the claim and related publicity, the Duffer brothers responded by sharing emails with TMZ which they claim demonstrate that they were developing Stranger Things and referring to it as Montauk years before meeting Kessler.

The claim highlights the difficulties which surround the ownership of concepts and ideas in an industry where these are often outlined to potential collaborators in an informal way, and where copyright protection does not generally extend to them while at the pitch stage.

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