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Harlan Ellison won’t wait until the end of time to challenge Justin Timberlake movie

Andrew Niccol, the Australian writer-director who wrote the screenplays for such acclaimed science-fiction films as The Truman Show and Gattaca, is not justified in appropriating the plot of a Harlan Ellison story for his latest project, or so the Hugo Award“winning author contends.

Ellison alleges that Niccol’s new movie, In Time, which stars Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, is lifted from the author’s 1965 story “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman.” (Although, if true, it’s hard to understand why the filmmakers would have elected to change the story’s title.)

According to the Guardian, Ellison filed suit last Wednesday, claiming copyright infringement:

According to Ellison’s suit, both works are based on the premise of a “dystopian corporate future in which everyone is allotted a specific amount of time to live”. The writer also says In Time lifts other concepts from his story, including the presence of authority figures known as “Timekeepers” who track the precise amount of time each citizen has left, and similarities in the way those whose time runs out meet their end.

Ellison says the issue is particularly galling because he has been trying to set up a deal to shoot a film based on “Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman,” which the suit claims is one of the most famous and widely published science fiction short stories of all time.

At the very least, Ellison’s story has seeped into popular culture: film critic Richard Roeper says that the film is based on “a brilliant story by the great Harlan Ellison,” even though the advertising for the movie makes no mention of Ellison’s name.

The film is scheduled to open in Canadian theatres on Oct. 28. In the meantime, this seems like an appropriate stopgap: