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Filmmakers allegedly plagiarized comic artist Adam Ellis

Where do you draw the line between inspiration and imitation?

Adam Ellis, a New York based illustrator, has set off a discussion about plagiarism on Twitter after claiming that a short film was an unauthorized remake of one of his comics. Ellis uploaded the said comic on his Instagram back in 2018. It depicted the story of his cartoon persona burying his fingernail clipping, and returning the next day to find a human in its place. ‘Keratin‘, a black and white 8-minute drama was caught under fire for following the same plot.

After learning that the film was not only making rounds in the festival circuit but winning awards, Ellis took to Twitter to expose the filmmakers for their blatant remake of his work. The artist shared side-by-side comparisons of panels from his comic with shots from ‘Keratin’.

Probably one of the scariest things about being an artist is putting out something deeply personal — but what happens when other artists take advantage of it?

According to Ellis, he had explicitly informed them back in October that he did not approve of the film. However, they ignored his request and continued on with their festival premiere. The filmmakers also didn’t credit him by name. They had instead stated, “The original concept was inspired by a short online cartoon we saw which we developed further.”

In another tweet, Ellis shared how he created the comic after quitting his job “because of disputes over ownership of my personal work.” How ironic that he’s facing that same issue once again on this very comic.

The production company behind ‘Keratin’, Backbone Films, recently came out with a statement regarding the matter.

“After Adam’s response, we sought legal advice on how best to proceed. This advice confirmed that there was no evidence of copyright or IP infringement, something which we believe is clear when you watch the film in its entirety. Having taken this advice, we accept we should have reached out to Adam and let him know our further intentions.”

Apparently it was the sole decision of Co-Directors Andrew Butler and James Wilson to push through with the film’s release without consulting Ellis once more. Backbone Films claims to have no affiliation with the directors as employees. The film has since been pulled from online circulation.


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