The Legal Battle Over the Road House Remake: A Copyright Infringement Allegation

The screenwriter of the 1989 action film Road House, R. Lance Hill, has filed a lawsuit against MGM Studios and Amazon Studios, alleging copyright infringement over the upcoming Road House remake. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. Central District Court in Los Angeles and claims that Amazon Studios used generative AI to clone actors’ voices to complete the film during last year’s Hollywood strikes, which disrupted film production.

Hill states in the complaint that he filed a petition with the US Copyright Office in November 2021 to reclaim the rights to the screenplay on which both the original Road House and the Amazon Studios reboot are based. Amazon Studios had acquired the rights to Road House through its acquisition of MGM’s film library, but Hill argues that the work-for-hire clause in his original deal with United Artists, which was later acquired by MGM Studios, should not apply.

According to the US Copyright Office, a work-for-hire agreement means that the party that hired an individual to create the work owns the rights to it. Hill disputes that the work-for-hire clause was merely boilerplate and accuses Amazon of disregarding his copyright claims and rushing production of the remake, including using generative AI to clone actors’ voices.

The lawsuit seeks to block the release of the film, which is scheduled to premiere at SXSW in March and stream on Prime Video later in the month. Amazon MGM Studios has denied using AI to replace or recreate actors’ voices, stating that the studio instructed the filmmakers not to use AI and that any AI used would have been by the filmmakers themselves during the editing process.

The legal battle over the Road House remake highlights the complexity of copyright disputes in the digital age. With the increasing use of technology like generative AI in the entertainment industry, the issue of ownership and rights to creative works becomes even more contentious. As the case unfolds in court, it will be interesting to see how the legal system addresses the intersection of technology and intellectual property rights.

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