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‘Outer Banks’ Netflix show stole from N.C. teacher’s novel, lawsuit alleges
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‘Outer Banks’ Netflix show stole from N.C. teacher’s novel, lawsuit alleges

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Outer Banks (copy)

Writer/director Jonas Pate (top, left) with cast members (from top) Rudy Pankow, Chase Stokes, Kernersville native Madison Bailey, Lilah Pate and Jonathan Daviss on the set of Netflix 'Outer Banks.' 

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — A high school English teacher from Yadkin County says in a federal lawsuit that the creators of the hit Netflix show, "Outer Banks" stole the idea for the show from his 2016 novel.

Kevin "K.W." Wooten teaches English and creative writing and lives in Hamptonville. The lawsuit does not name the school where Wooten teaches.

Marcy L. Sperry and Melissa F. Castro of Vivid IP, an intellectual property law firm in Atlanta, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Georgia. The lawsuit, filed on Dec. 21, 2020, names Netflix Inc. and the show's creators, Daniel S. Burke and brothers Jonas J. Pate and Joshua W. Pate as defendants. 

Jonas and Joshua Pate were born in Winston-Salem, and the show includes local actors such as Cullen Moss from Winston-Salem and Kernersville-native Madison Bailey. The show follows four teenagers living in a fictional version of the Outer Banks who find clues to a hidden treasure. 

The lawsuit alleges copyright infringement of Wooten's 2016 novel, "Pennywise: The Hunt for Blackbeard's Treasure!" 

"Outer Banks" debuted on Netflix on April 15 and has become one of the streaming services' top-rated shows. It already has been renewed for a second season. 

But Wooten claims in the lawsuit that he sold physical copies of the novel in Wilmington. The creators told a newspaper reporter that they drew their inspiration for the series because of the time they spent in Wilmington. 

The lawsuit includes a 7-page exhibit detailing the alleged similarities between the novel and the series. According to the exhibit, the novel and the series contain two characters whose parents are absent and another character who is described as studious but throws away his academic career.

Another character in both the novel and the show is a rich benefactor who is hunting for the treasure. 

The lawsuit also claims that other similarities in the plot and characters, including that the protagonists find clues to the treasure in a mausoleum and a church. 

"The Series is strikingly similar to the Novel in its plot, locations, protagonists, antagonists, and scenes," the lawsuit said. 

Sperry and Castro allege that Burke and the Pate brothers "acted willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, wantonly, oppressively, or with entire want of care that would raise a presumption of conscious indifference to any consequences when the Defendants willfully copied the protectable elements of Mr. Wooten's original Novel."

The lawsuit further said that the alleged copyright infringement will have a negative impact on the novel's sales because both the show and the novel target the same audience, and many in the targeted audience will conclude that the series "constitutes a new creative expression of Mr. Wooten's themes and arrangement."

Russell E. Blythe, attorney for the defendants, did not immediately return a message seeking a comment.

Sperry sent out a statement via the law firm's Twitter account, saying that Wooten is a fan of the show. 

"As a creative writing instructor for young adults, Mr. Wooten teaches his students every day about the importance of keeping their writings original and protecting them, so it's natural that he would assert his copyrights to his novel once he discovered the infringement," she said in the statement.

Wooten has reached out to the creators of the show, the statement said, and he hopes to reach an amicable resolution. 

Sperry said Wooten is looking forward to season two of the show. 

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