Netflix Faces Copyright Infringement Lawsuit by English Teacher

Kevin Wooten, an English teacher in North Carolina, has sued Netflix for alleged copyright infringement related to its show “Outer Banks.” Wooten wrote a novel called “Pennywise:  The Hunt for Blackbeard’s Treasure” in 2016. He argues that Netflix stole material from his book for “Outer Banks,” based on parallels between the storylines, themes, and characters of the two works.

“Pennywise” follows two brothers and their uncle in an adventure that starts when they discover a clue off the coast of Ocacroke Island in the Outer Banks. The three protagonists aim to prevent a gang of treasure hunters from seizing the chest for murky but nefarious purposes.

For example, the complaint points out that the novel and the TV show have the same amount of main characters, including a rich benefactor and a corrupt member of law enforcement who serve as the principal antagonists. These characters steal buried treasure in both works. Moreover, the clues leading to the treasure are similar in “Pennywise” and “Outer Banks.” The complaint also points out more generally that the works both take place in the Outer Banks region of North Carolina, although this parallel is less striking.

A key part of a copyright infringement lawsuit involves evidence that the defendants had access to the copyrighted work, or plausibly could have had access. Wooten points out in the complaint that he sold and promoted his book in Wilmington, North Carolina. He argues that this site served as a source of inspiration for the show, so the creators of “Outer Banks” could have encountered his work there.

Wooten named not only Netflix in his lawsuit but also the creators of the show:  Shannon Burke, Josh Pate, and Jonas Pate. He has asked the court for a jury trial, and he plans to pursue damages and ongoing royalties.

Photo Credit:  Steve Bower /