Harlan Ellison is trying to prevent the release of Andrew Niccol's In Time, on the grounds that Niccol's film rips off one one of his better-known short stories:
Ellison says the new film is based on his multiple prize-winning 1965 work, "Repent, Harlequin! Said The Ticktockman" which the complaint calls one of the most famous and widely published science fiction short stories of all time.
For years, according to Ellison, he has resisted producer interest in adapting this story into film, but in late 2010, Ellison's company, The Kilimanjaro Corporation, entered into an agreement with a third party to create a screenplay based on the story so that it could be sold or licensed to a Hollywood studio. Now, Ellison says that In Time jeopardizes an official film adaptation of "Repent Harlequin!"
Ellison says the similarity between the two works is "obvious" and quotes critics such as Richard Roeper who have attended advanced screenings and seem to believe that In Time is based on "Repent Harlequin!"
Both works are said to take place in a "dystopian corporate future in which everyone is allotted a specific amount of time to live." In both works, government authorities known as a "Timekeeper" track the precise amount of time each citizen has left.
The complaint goes on to list similarities in the features of the universe as well as the plot surfaces — the manipulation of time an individual can live, the type of death experienced by those whose time runs out, rebellion by story protagonists, and so forth.
For what it's worth, "Repent Harlequin!", Said the Ticktockman is one of my all-time favourite short SF stories; when I saw the trailer for In Time a few weeks ago, it didn't remind me of Ellison's story in any respect – not the storyline, not the motivation or actions of Justin Timberlake's protagonist, and certainly not the tone and style. The central issue in Ellison's story isn't so much that everyone has a strictly regulated amount of time to live, but that everyone is forced to live those lives in a highly regimented manner imposed from above in order that society stays on schedule.
Put it another way: Timberlake's character fights back against a society where a powerful elite tries to control how long he's allowed to live by taking up arms and kidnapping a young woman. Ellison's Harlequin disrupts his society by showering factory workers with thousands of jellybeans to throw off the Ticktockman's production schedule.
[Via The Medium is Not Enough]