It looks like AMC’s The Walking Dead franchise is in for another legal battle. Last summer, Mel Smith, the author behind the zombie comic Dead Ahead, filed a lawsuit against the hit series claiming infringement by Fear the Walking Dead.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, a federal judge denied AMC’s motion to dismiss the case. Smith's original complaint alleged that Fear the Walking Dead’s second season stole directly from his comic. According to him, both have the “identical premise of a ragtag group of individuals thrown together by a zombie apocalypse fleeing to the Pacific Ocean on a boat.”
Apparently, AMC is not denying it “had access” to Dead Ahead. Smith says his agent was David Alpert who also happens to be the business manager and business partner of Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead. Alpert is also an executive producer on Fear the Walking Dead and now a co-defendant in the suit.
AMC attempted to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that once you take away “the generic elements from the zombie genre”, “there wasn't enough substantial similarity in any protectable elements.” THR believes that was a wise strategy considering the long history of zombie similar content on the big and small screen.
However, that wasn’t enough for the U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh.
"Here, what Defendants essentially seek is summary judgment because they stray beyond the four corners of the complaint and into factual disputes over the similarities and differences between Dead Ahead and Fear the Walking Dead, including whether certain elements of Dead Ahead are protectable under copyright law," she wrote. "Moreover, AMC Defendants’ request for judicial notice that certain concepts are generic further demonstrates that Defendants’ motions are essentially motions for summary judgment."
THR believes that, unless the case settles, we’re in for “some exploration of the zombie genre” meaning there’s a good chance this case will dissect “what's original versus just standard tropes free to be exploited by anyone.”
You can read the full decision here.
This marks the third legal battle for The Walking Dead franchise. AMC has been locked in a court battle with former show runnner Frank Darabont over nearly $300 million in profits Darabont claims were not fairly shared with him. It was announced last month that the suit would be going to trial.
The mother of a stuntman who died after an accident on the set of The Walking Dead in 2017 also filed a wrongful death lawsuit against AMC last year.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC on February 10. Fear the Walking Dead’s fifth season premiere does not have a release date yet, but is expected to begin later this year.