Netflix Answers Complaint Over Copied Pandemic Film ‘Alone’ After Court Refuses to Toss Case

Late last week, streaming giant Netflix answered a complaint filed by Hollywood Innovations Group LLC (HIG), a California movie studio who claimed that Netflix alongside several South Korean movie producers infringed its copyright to a pandemic-themed motion picture. The answer comes after Netflix’s motion to dismiss failed to gain traction and after the court ordered personal jurisdiction-related discovery in relation to the South Korean producer defendants.

As previously reported, two films, #Alive released by Netflix and HIG’s Alone are at the heart of the case. HIG had the rights to Alone, originally a Korean-language and Koren produced film, but claimed that the South Korean producers and Netflix usurped its rights to the screenplay, bringing #Alive, a translated and dubbed version of the Korean film, to market a month before Alone’s release. Consequently, Alone tanked because of nearly-identical #Alive’s release and circulation. 

In response to HIG’s lawsuit, the South Korean producers moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and Netflix for failure to join an indispensable party, for forum non conveniens, and failure to state a claim.

Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr.’s August-issued opinion said that HIG failed to establish that the South Korean producers purposely directed their suit-related conduct at California, yet the court granted HIG permission to conduct jurisdictional discovery concerning the foreign defendants.

Judge Hatter declined Netflix’s motion on all of its proffered three grounds. As to forum non conveniens, the court said that Netflix “failed to satisfy its heavy burden of showing that this case would be inconvenient to try in this Court.” Additionally, the opinion said Netflix did not give the court enough context about the operation of South Korean law for it to establish that HIG failed to state a copyright infringement claim.

In its answer to the complaint, Netflix asserted ten affirmative defenses including failure to state a claim, statute of limitations, unclean hands, and equitable estoppel. The relevant parties will conduct jurisdictional-related discovery until November 21.

HIG is represented by One LLP and Bay Advocacy PLLC. The South Korean Producers are represented by Mandavia Ephraim & Burg LLP and Netflix by Munger, Tolles & Olson.