Notoriously contentious science fiction icon, Harlan Ellison, filed a copyright suit last week that alleges that a new film borrows heavily from his 1965 short story, “Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman.” The complaint refers to the work as “one of the most famous and widely published science fiction short stories of all time.” In Time was written and directed by Andrew Niccol (Gattaca, The Truman Show) and starring Justin Timberlake (The Social Network, Bad Teacher) and Amanda Seyfried (Mama Mia, Big Love) and, unless Ellison gets his way, is due to open on October 28th.
As The Hollywood Reporter points out, copyright suits are notoriously difficult to prove. However, it seems that Ellison may have a leg to stand on:
For years, according to Ellison, he has resisted producer interest in adapting this story into film, but in late 2010, Ellison’s 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. Now, Ellison says that In Time jeopardizes an official film adaptation of “Repent Harlequin!”
Ellison says the similarity between the two works is “obvious” and quotes critics such as Richard Roeper who have attended advanced screenings and seem to believe that In Time is based on “Repent Harlequin!”
Both works are said to take place in a “dystopian corporate future in which everyone is allotted a specific amount of time to live.” In both works, government authorities known as a “Timekeeper” track the precise amount of time each citizen has left.
The complaint goes on to list similarities in the features of the universe as well as the plot surfaces — the manipulation of time an individual can live, the type of death experienced by those whose time runs out, rebellion by story protagonists, and so forth.