The Duffer brothers are headed to court over the allegations of plagiarism regarding Stranger Things. Airing its 1st season on Netflix in 2016, the series was an instant hit among both critics and viewers. Its 3rd outing, said to be the show's most ambitious, is scheduled to hit the streaming service July 4th.
Matt and Ross Duffer, creators of Stranger Things, were hit with a lawsuit last April. The suit was filed by Charlie Kessler, who claimed that the Duffer Brothers stole the idea for the series from his 2012 short film, Montauk. Kessler claims that he pitched the idea to the Duffers during a Tribeca Film Festival party in 2014. He alleges that he presented a script to the duo, as well as discussed his ideas with them. Kessler also referred to show’s working title as The Montauk Project. When Stranger Things was in its infancy, the Duffer Brothers were going to call it Montauk, originally intending for the series to take place in the Long Island town. The creators insisted that there was no merit to Kessler’s claims and emails were revealed, which seemed to prove that these ideas were set in motion before his alleged pitch. It would appear that this was not proof enough to have the case dismissed.
THR reports that a Los Angeles judge has chosen to send the case to trial. His ruling states, "Without such admissible evidence, we are left with an issue of determining credibility that must be decided by the trier of fact. Moreover, whether or not there is a similarity between the concepts to be discerned by comparing them is a subissue of independent creation that must be decided by the trier of fact.” The duo argued that the ideas Kessler allegedly pitched them were not new or original enough to warrant these accusations, but during his denial of a summery judgment, the judge stated that there is no requirement that the ideas be “novel” under California or New York law - the alleged pitch took place in New York, but the lawsuit was filed in California. The Duffers maintain that at no point did they "manifest any intent to enter into a binding agreement” with Kessler.
The lawsuit called for an injunction to stop the Duffer brothers from continuing to use Kessler’s ideas, as well as requesting compensation for lost profits, damages, etc. Netflix has chosen to stand with the creators, throwing their full support behind the Duffers and stating that the case has “no merit”. Efforts are being made to seal off parts of the trial, with the claim that the release of certain confidential information could be damaging both to Stranger Things and to Netflix. The trial is set to begin May 6.
It should be noted that there are long-running conspiracy theories surrounding Montauk that date back to the early ‘80s, so some of these ideas were certainly circulating long before Kessler allegedly made his pitch. However, it also should not be ignored that these cases can be difficult to prove, so either Kessler has some compelling evidence or the Duffers simply don’t have much other than their word to convince a judge that these ideas were theirs to begin with. Hopefully, they will have more than that when the case goes to trial. This is one Demogorgon that the Duffers are going to have to face.