Sep 20, 2011

Was The Matrix & The Terminator franchises one and the same?



I want you to imagine something.  Imagine that the movie franchises that you know as The Matrix and The Terminator were actually essentially one story.  That the characters of Thomas Anderson aka Neo and John Connor, were actually one and the same.   And that in this story, the machines that sent the Terminator back to kill John Connor was the same machines that would plague Neo and the rest of mankind.


In this story, the Agents, unable to defeat Neo, would send an agent/machine back to terminate him before he was born.  That machine, in the movie world that you know, was played by Arnold Schwarzenegger.


This is the basis of the lawsuit that Sophia Stewart, the "Mother of the Matrix", filed against Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and the Wachowski Brothers and James Cameron over their alleged plagiarizing and copyright infringment of her story "The Third Eye" which she states was copyrighted in 1981.


MORE AFTER THE BREAK




This is definitely an intriguing situation, and one that has permeated the internet for the past six years.   In 2003, Stewart filed the lawsuit against the studio heavyweights and the directors of each project claiming that they stole her work.   Stewart, according the lawsuit, responded to an advertisement placed by the Wachowskis in a magazine asking for science fiction stories to be submitted to be turned into comic book form.


The "Mother Of The Matrix"?
After submitting her story "The Third Eye", she claims she never received any response from them, nor was her manuscript returned to her.    Then in 1999, she went to see The Matrix with a friend and felt that there were a number of similarities between the blockbuster film and her own story, that she claims she sent to the directors of the film.

The point in which this case dominated the internet was when the Judge ruled against the studios in their bid to have the case immediately dismissed.   So after Stewart won that initial ruling, a college paper mistakenly printed that she had in fact won the case, garnering a multi-billion dollar victory.


The article then was spread around on forums, and people lost their collective minds.   There were many people who did some quick research and didn't see any other reputable sources (aside from a college newspaper) that reported this and were suspicious.   Others took it at face value, and ran with it.   The newspaper eventually ran a correction, but by then it was too late.   The article continues to get passed around, without the subsequent correction noting that the case was not in fact won, but rather it was a simple ruling to continue the case.

Here is the correction that the Globe staff posted after it realized that they had made a mistake:


CORRECTION REGARDING PREVIOUS STORY

In reference to the recent article entitled "Mother of the Matrix Victorious," some
information has been deemed misleading. Ms. Sophia Stewart has not yet won her case against Joel Silver, Time Warner and the Wachowski Bros. The decision on October 4th enabled Ms. Stewart to proceed with her case, as all attempts to have it dismissed were unsuccessful. Ms. Stewart's case will proceed through the Central District Court of California.

Thanks,
The Globe Staff




It's interesting that to this day there are those who are adamant that Stewart won the case, because they saw the article saying she did.   The LA Times did a great article on this entitled "The Billion Dollar Myth" in which they discuss various aspects to this case.


And it's interesting how even in the face of seemingly CLEAR evidence to the contrary, there are many who still insist that she won, based solely on that article.  And the fact that so many blogs have repeated that post over and over and over (sans correction, of course).


This leads, however, to Stewart's point in responding to accusations of there not being any reputable sources reporting on this:  She claims that Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox are all causing a media blackout on this story.   And much like the idea of Neo/John Connor being the same character, it's something that on the surface sounds like it has a whiff of truth to it.


I mean, how much of serious reporting on the News Corp. hacking scandal has Fox News reported?   How much air time did MSNBC or NBC News give to the fact that their parent corporation, GE paid ZERO taxes last year?   How much air time does ESPN give whenever one of their anchors gets charged with sexual harassment or something like that?


Perhaps a little bit, but not as much as if a competitor had been accused of the exact same thing.


Also, something to think about, Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox do not own all the media in this country. There are MANY major newspapers and news networks that are not under their umbrella.  So while it's at least imaginable that a company would not be reporting negative news about itself, in this case, it just doesn't bear out that those two companies were able to prevent competitors from reporting on their missteps..

Also, when you think about it, what are the odds that something like this could be withheld?  I mean court cases are a matter of record.  Even if the records are sealed, such as the terms of a settlement, in the case of Stewart's lawsuit against the studios, the judge dismissed the case in 2005 when Stewart allegedly did not show up.   According to an ongoing legal case in Utah, she appears to be suing her former lawyers that handled that case.  According to a blog that has covered her case, it appears that she is accusing them of cancelling a scheduled deposition, which could have led to the judge dismissing the case.

So that's the end of the whole situation, right?


Well, not exactly.   The legend lives on.  Do a search of Sophia Stewart and you'll find tons of articles on Google about her, some dealing with the case and declaring it a hoax, and others declaring that she won a billion dollar lawsuit.


On Stewart's own website, Truth About Matrix, she claims that "The Government" has settled the case with her, and that she now owns the copyright to The Matrix Franchise, and is pushing ahead for a fourth Matrix Film.   There are various legal documents there you can view, including various legal filings in relation to the Terminator and Matrix Franchises.


How can this be, if the court case was dismissed in 2005?  Wouldn't we have heard if the rights to two of the all time money making franchises in movie history had been shifted from the mighty studios to a woman who is not a Hollywood figure?    That the courts had ruled that these studios had stolen work from an unknown author?    I mean this is the biggest David vs. Goliath case in the history of the world, since....well.... since the original David & Goliath.


These are two MULTI-BILLION dollar franchises at stake here.  No amount of media blackout by 20th Century Fox and Warner Brothers could possibly contain this, as media from other countries would have reported on it, such as the UK's Guardian.   At least that is what we would imagine, anyway.

Does THIS violate The Third Eye's Copyright as well?


So what is the actual story?   I'll be honest and say that I tend to fall on the side of, what is to me anyway,  logic.  And that is that I it is my opinion that the case was dismissed against her, and she does not hold the copyrights to these.



However I definitely did want to know what the deal with this was.  As I said before, it's an interesting situation.  It's a story that I found very intriguing, and there were so many twists and turns in this tale that it's impossible not to be pulled in to it.


And the fact is, that since 2005 there's very little information out there pertaining to this, other than blogs repeating that same article from the college newspaper without the ensuing correction.   There was an interview here and there, but nothing really new about it.  Nothing asking her questions about it, other than going in and talking as if everything she was saying was absolute gospel.


So I found her website and emailed her asking if she would consent to an interview, and she said yes.   My reason for doing this was not to embarrass her, or ambush her or do anything like that.  That's not what I do, that's not what interests me.   There are are plenty of sites that do that, to try to make them think they are in good company, and then start trying to do this ambush journalism where they just want to make someone out to be a fool.


Admittedly I went into this with my mind made up, however I did not allow that to color how I asked the questions.  I simply asked questions that I wanted answers to, and I thought other people would want answers to as well.  Questions that I wasn't seeing being asked of her.   I feel I asked them professionally and politely, but they were straight questions that needed to be answered, considering this is a situation in which if I am right, and what she has been saying for years is not true, then she needs to answer questions because it's a serious situation

So after she agreed to do an email-style interview, where I sent her the questions and then when she had time she would respond, I hung back and waited.  Soon she sent me a bunch of legal documents that I suppose purported to show that she was in the right.   Documents, such as the ones I listed above.  However, to my untrained eye, it appears these are simply her applications and filings.  Nothing concrete, nothing showing that she in fact owns the copyrights to these movies.


There's one document about the rights to Matrix Reloaded expiring, but I am honestly not sure whether that is simply a letter informing the rights holders that they needed to re-up their rights, or what.   There's another one she sent me showing her copyright submission for something called "Matrix 4: Cracking the Genetic Code" (which you can see on her website).  That, however, seems to be an APPLICATION to file it, not an approved copyright.   I imagine that with the Wachowskis and Warner Brothers having the rights to that franchise and everything involving the word Matrix, I imagine, I can't fathom someone being allowed to register a movie that comes off as a sequel to their intellectual properties.


During this time she also suggested that I read her story "The Third Eye", and that she felt that "all your questions" are answered in there.  At this point I had my first thought that she was not going to do this interview after all.   I wrote back saying that I had not been able to purchase her e-book from her site (at a price of $24.95) and that even if I had, many many people reading this interview also would not have read it, so you want to do an interview to give information to those who perhaps haven't read the book.


In my mind you don't not do an interview simply because "oh just read my Book, the answers are all there".  But I responded, explaining this, and I have to say she was very kind and she gave me a copy of her ebook which was over 200 pages of not only her story, but also a ton of legal documents, filings, and correspondence between her and some of the people at Warner Brothers in regards to her allegations that they stole her intellectual property.


This was very interesting, because the response from one of the execs was pretty much my thoughts upon my reading The Third Eye, and that is there are so many differences between The Third Eye and The Matrix that  it's just incredible.


There are small similarities to it, mainly in themes and ideas, but as the exec pointed out correctly, you can't patent or copyright an idea or a theme.   And he sent a three page letter outlining what he felt were the stark differences between the two properties. And this was before the lawsuit, obviously, so those letters clearly did not phase Ms Stewart.

And I agree with this.   There are certain themes that are similar, but overall those themes have been used in countless movie products throughout history.  I mean, in the beginning of her story she talks about a flying pyramid.   There was a similar flying pyramid in the French sci-fi flick 'Immortel" by Enki Bilal.  Did he steal that from her too?

Taken from the film "Immortel" by Enki Bilal



And she claims that the FBI essentially sides with her, and that they have agreed with her that the Matrix and the Terminator franchises IN FACT DO violate her copyrights, however there is no proof of this.   In her e-book she has a bunch of "Did you know?" questions that are mostly innuendo, speculation and twisted facts presented in order to cause you to think something that is not true.   Some of those "Did you know" entries are outrageous to say the least.


So last night I emailed her again and asked if she was still interested in doing the interview.  I thanked her again for giving her time, as I was sure she was someone who was busy, and told her I appreciated her doing this.   And she responded by sending me a RICO document, that had her statement that she said to just give her answers from that, because she stated her case in that document.


So.  Yeah.  That's the interview, I suppose.  If you are interested in reading the RICO document, then click here and you can download it from her site.


My final thoughts on this are such:  Ms. Stewart is clearly a nice woman.  She was very polite with me, and as I said was kind enough to give me her ebook which she had been selling for 25 bucks on her site.


I am frustrated that she ended up not doing the interview, although she did say that she had to go to court in Utah, so I do not know if this involves an appeal or something else relating to the old case that was dismissed, but I know that it will be an interesting situation.


What I would leave you with though, are a few links that you can go to that will give you all the information you want on this subject.   The 1st link is to Snopes Urban Legend page which discusses this tale.  And the 2nd link is to the LA Times thorough breakdown of the "Billion Dollar Myth" and the racial lines it drew among many people online when it first happened.






UPDATE: SEPT. 21st 2011 2:36 am.   


Earlier after posting this, I got a couple emails from Ms. Stewart, very upset over what I had written.  She insisted that I had everything wrong, and that the judge did not dismiss the case due to her not showing up.   There were other things that were said, that I will leave between us, but the crux of the matter is that she seemed to feel that I had misrepresented her, and that I was not getting the real picture.

So thinking about this, I still haven't gone to sleep.  It's not my intention to write a hit piece or anything like that.  Anyone that knows me knows that's not how I operate.  I may have my strong opinions on things, but it's never my idea to intentionally go after someone to make them look bad.  And the idea that I might have done that, even inadvertently, is not something that I like.

So I looked online, and found that there is legal case in Utah (she referred to her having to go to court in Utah in a previous email) in which she appears to be suing her former lawyers that represented her in the case against Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, The Wachowski Brothers and James Cameron (along with others associated with the films The Matrix & The Terminator).

It took awhile to figure out what the case was about, but I finally stumbled across an article from a website discussing how the case in 2005 fell apart, according to this account that I'm linking to here, due to the former lawyer's inept handling of the case.   From missed deadlines, not deposing anyone that she was suing, or just other various mistakes, the Judge finally had enough and just called off the fight, so to speak, and found for the defendants.   The motion to find for the defendants can be seen by clicking HERE. (also it's linked elsewhere in the piece below).

So I would like to point out that the way I originally characterized the dismissal of the case (that had been widely reported) as her losing the case after not showing up, appears not to have been the whole story.  That does not change the fact, however, that at least based on that case, and the current case in which her new attorney's insist that during this case, they will prove that she was correct the first time around, and deserves to be found victorious, it does not appear as if she in fact has the rights to the Matrix & Terminator franchises.

She may believe she deserves them.  She may believe that she is the rightful owner of them.  However LEGALLY as of this writing, she does not appear to own those rights.   If she had those rights, her lawyer would not have said that the court battle over who wrote those films is over, and that she lost.  Click HERE to read that article.

I hope that clears everything up.  I wish Ms. Stewart nothing but the best in her current legal battle against her former lawyers.  If everything that has been reported about their alleged mistakes and whatnot are true, then she definitely needs to win that, because that's pretty outrageous.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for this article, very insightful to the whole situation.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, thanks. I was referred to your article by a poster on the thread under an article on this topic in Indie Wire from April 2013 so it has some legs.

    ReplyDelete

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