A plagiarism lawsuit against Stranger Things creators the Duffer Brothers has been dropped. The lawsuit was filed against Matt and Ross Duffer in April last year by filmmaker Charlie Kessler who alleged the brothers had stolen the concept for Stranger Things from a short film he made in 2011 called Montauk and a feature film script titled The Montauk Project - both of which focused on the conspiracy theories and supernatural legends about the Long Island beach town. Kessler claimed he had pitched his ideas to the Duffer Brothers at a party that took place during the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival. His lawsuit requested an injunction stopping the Duffer Brothers from using his ideas alongside damages and lost profits among other things.
A few days after Kessler filed the lawsuit, news broke that emails had surfaced that proved the Duffer Brothers had started planning Stranger Things a good few years before Kessler alleged he had pitched his ideas to them. The emails - some dated as early as 2010 - described the brothers’ ideas for a “real, paranormal, gritty ‘80s” TV show and also referenced the Montauk Project. Nevertheless, it seemed the Duffer Brothers’ emails weren’t enough proof to satisfy a Los Angeles judge who decided that the case would go to trial in early May.
In a last-minute turn of events, Deadline is now reporting that Kessler has withdrawn his lawsuit against the Duffer Brothers just days before the expected five-day trial was set to take place. A statement issued by Kessler on Sunday read:
“After hearing the deposition testimony this week of the legal expert I hired, it is now apparent to me that, whatever I may have believed in the past, my work had nothing to do with the creation of Stranger Things. Documents from 2010 and 2013 prove that the Duffers independently created their show. As a result, I have withdrawn my claim and I will be making no further comment on this matter.”
According to Deadline, Kessler’s about-turn comes after lawyers representing both sides met in the run-up to the trial and Kessler’s legal team saw documents that made them doubt the Duffer Brothers had plagiarised their client. Netflix also issued a statement responding to the news that read:
“We are glad to be able to put this baseless lawsuit behind us. As we have said all along, Stranger Things is a ground-breaking original creation by The Duffer Brothers. We are proud of this show and of our friends Matt and Ross, whose artistic vision gave life to Stranger Things, and whose passion, imagination and relentless hard work alongside our talented cast and crew made it a wildly successful, award-winning series beloved by viewers around the world.”
As the Duffer Brothers’ emails prove, the Montauk Project was indeed an influence on Stranger Things. In fact, the original title of the show was Montauk and it was supposed to be set in the Long Island town where, according to conspiracy theorists, the government have conducted psychological warfare and time travel experiments since the 1970s. But as the withdrawal of this lawsuit suggests, just because two different things draw inspiration from the same urban legend, it doesn’t necessarily make a case for plagiarism.
Now that Kessler’s lawsuit has been dropped, Netflix and the Duffer Brothers - and the many Stranger Things fans out there - can look forward to season 3 of the hit series which is set to air in early July.
Stranger Things season 3 premieres July 4th on Netflix.