Netflix and ‘Stranger Things’ creators being sued over alleged copyright infringement

A lawsuit claims the idea for the hit show was stolen from a screenplay called 'Totem'

Netflix and the creators of Stranger Things, Matt and Ross Duffer, are being sued by a company that says the idea for the hit show was stolen from a screenplay called Totem.

A lawsuit filed by Irish Rover Entertainment on Wednesday (July 15) in California federal court claims that Stranger Things has copied a number of things from Totem, a screenplay written by Jeffrey Kennedy (via TheWrap).

The suit alleges that the Netflix show lifted the “plot, sequence, characters, theme, dialogue, mood, and setting, as well as copyrighted concept art” from Totem.

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The idea for Totem came following the death of Kennedy’s childhood friend, Clint Osthimer, who suffered from epilepsy.

“During their childhood together in rural Indiana,” the lawsuit reads, “Osthimer and Kennedy dealt with the constant threat of Osthimer’s ‘personal demon’, epilepsy, which created ‘lightning showers’ in his brain. These lightning showers or seizures would send him to an alternate supernatural plane where the demon resided.”

Irish Rover Entertainment claims the two projects are connected by a man named Aaron Sims, who worked closely with Kennedy during its development of Totem. The company says Sims was hired to create the concept art for the first two seasons of Stranger Things.

Stranger Things
‘Stranger Things’ creators the Duffer Brothers. CREDIT: Getty Images

Comparing the two shows, the lawsuit says that one of the characters in Totem is “a little girl named Kimimela or ‘Kimi’ for short who has supernatural powers. Kimimela helps her friends find the portal gate to an alternate supernatural plane and helps them battle the plane’s inhabitants; a dark spirit named Azrael and his army of Blackwolf.”

By comparison, the lawsuit then describes Stranger Things by saying: “In Stranger Things, one of the characters is a little girl name Eleven or ‘El’ for short who has supernatural powers. Eleven helps her friends find the portal gate to an alternate supernatural plane and helps them battle the plane’s inhabitants; a Shadow Monster and his army of Demogorgon.”

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Responding to the lawsuit, a Netflix representative told TheWrap: “Mr. Kennedy has been peddling these far-fetched conspiracy theories for years, even though Netflix has repeatedly explained to him that The Duffer Brothers had never heard of him or his unpublished script until he began threatening to sue them.

“After we refused to give in to his demands for a payoff, he filed this baseless lawsuit. There is no shortage of people who would like to claim credit for creating Stranger Things. But the truth is the show was independently conceived by The Duffer Brothers, and is the result of their creativity and hard work.”

This isn’t the first time the Duffer Brothers have been sued over the creation of Stranger Things. In 2018, the pair were accused of stealing the show’s concept by filmmaker Charlie Kessler.

Kessler produced a short film in 2012 called Montauk and alleged that he and his agents pitched the idea of turning it into a full series to the Duffer Brothers in April 2014.

Kessler dropped his lawsuit the day before it was set to go to trial.

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