Stephen Cummings has sued James Cameron for turning his life story into the hit movie Titanic. Mr. Cummings claims that Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Jack Dawson “is based solely/wholly/only” on his life. Cummings claims violation of Right of Publicity, Unjust Enrichment, Copyright Infringement; and Trespass to Chattels/Conversion, and seeks $300,000,000 and a 1% royalty in perpetuity for each of three counts.
According to Mr. Cummings: “EVERYTHING, which went into to film, ORIGINATED with only myself, including the vessel, (via only my own remarks, and about the vessel/incident of its sinking).” He did concede that Cameron photographed the vessel, but only as an additional tool “to tell only MY OWN, story.”
While it seems doubtful that Cummings will be able to sink this Titanic, it is important for creators to document their creative process to be able to establish their independent creation, because it seems as if every time there is a successful product or movie, there is someone claiming he or she thought of it first.