‘They stole my idea,’ is what independent filmmaker Charlie Kessler is claiming the creators of the Netflix show ‘Stranger Things’ did. Kessler filed a lawsuit against Matt and Ross Duffer for breach of implied contract alleging that the popular show is just a rip off of his short film ‘Montauk.’
His complaint alleges that he discussed his short film with the Duffer’s at a party during the Tribeca Film Festival in 2014. He further claims that he did not discuss these ideas openly, and ensured that they would not disclose the ideas to anyone else or exploit the concepts without his permission.
One of the most damning pieces of evidence Kessler has is that the show was initially called ‘The Montauk Project’ before its name was changed to ‘Stranger Things.’
So, what exactly is an implied in fact contract anyways? Well, this is when parties enter in to a contract by their conduct rather than by signing on the dotted line. It is basically when the parties act like they have a contract without actually saying they do.
Here, Kessler claims that the implied in fact contract arose “consistent with well-established customer and practices of the entertainment industry.” Under California law, a person who conveys a valuable idea to a producer who commercially solicits it should be entitled to recover.
The important piece of this law is that the person who accepts the idea must accept the disclosure voluntarily. And as the court once put it “The idea man who blurts out his idea without first making his bargain has no one but himself to blame for loss of bargaining power.”
Hundreds of scripts or pitches for shows and movies are mailed to studios , and because of this rule studios have a very strict mail policy that ensures execs do not see any of them. Because if they did, a lot people could make the same type claim the Kessler is alleging here.
So, if the conversation did take place, the question is if the Duffer’s knew that Kessler was disclosing the ideas subject to the implied promise of being paid for their use, or if the idea was just a conversation starter.
Information Gathered From:
Desny v. Wilder, 46 Cal. 2d 715,740 (June 28, 1956).