New Mexico man’s ‘Maze Runner’ copyright lawsuit makes its way through court

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – In the box-office hit “The Maze Runner,” Thomas is a teen who finds himself in a maze. “Who put us here?” he asks. “We don’t know,” another teen responds.

Rio Rancho author Tize Clark argues he put those characters there. He says James Dashner’s 2009 book, “The Maze Runner,” is a rip-off of his 2005 book, “The Maze.”

“We’re talking about complete scenes. I mean, complete, entire scenes from the beginning to the end of it,” Clark says.

Clark sued Dashner, Random House and 20th Century Fox last October in a copyright case that’s winding its way through federal court in Las Cruces. Attorneys for the defendants are now asking the judge to dismiss the case altogether, saying the two books aren’t substantially similar.

The lawsuit mentions several similarities between the two books. Both books center on a group of teens trying to survive a maze with moving walls, while fleeing from less than human creatures. In both books, there’s a garden with tombstones in the middle of the maze. Teens enter the maze through an elevator in both versions, as well.

“The whole sequence that goes after riding up in the elevator is identical from my book to his book,” he says.

Dashner’s attorney says nothing is “identical” between the two books. He says Dashner didn’t know anything about Clark’s book before the lawsuit was filed.

“The owner of the copyright doesn’t get to prevent someone from telling similar stories,” said New York attorney Christopher Beall, who represents Dashner and Penguin Random House. “In our case, we don’t even submit the stories are similar.”

There are substantial differences, Beall says. He says Dashner’s book is about teens trying to survive a maze in a post-apocalyptic future, while Clark’s book is trying to survive a maze in order to win a wealthy man’s fortune.

“The fact that are coincidences between stories is not itself unusual,” Beall says. “You’ve got to show that works as a whole are similar.”

A federal judge has heard arguments for both sides, and will be watching the film and reading both books to decide whether the case should move forward.

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