The most successful movie of all time is not a rip off of a screenwriter’s unmade film and novel, the U.S. District court ruled today. “Bats And Butterflies is a children’s story with a simple protagonist,” said Judge Manuel Real, Monday in Los Angeles. “Avatar is a more complex story about a conflicted protagonist.” The judge went on to add that the two were “not substantially similar” to each other. Back in the beginning of the year, Elijah Schkeiban filed a copyright infringement suit against James Cameron, 20th Century Fox, the director’s Lightstorm Entertainment and production company Dune Entertainment claiming that 2009’s Avatar was based on his novel and subsequent film script. The two sides have been chipping away at it legally ever since with the defendants getting successfully getting two motions to dismiss and Schkeiban amending his complaint.
‘Night Moves’ Director, Producers, UTA Sued By Edward Pressman & Edward Abbey Widow For Copyright Infringement
Night Moves might be stopped before it is even started. In a copyright infringement civil suit (read it here) filed Thursday, Edward R. Pressman Film and Clarke Abbey, widow of author Edward Abbey, are asking federal court to shut down the film because of its similarity to Abbey’s 1975 novel The Monkey Wrench Gang. Abbey and Pressman, who owns the film option to the novel, are also seeking unspecified damages from the defendants. And there are a lot of defendants named in the eight-page suit. Director Kelly Reichardt, her screenwriting partner Jonathan Raymond, Night Moves executive producers Todd Haynes, Larry Fessenden, Alejandro De Leon, Film Science, and RT Features CEO Rodrigo Teixeira are among those named. So is The Match Factory GmbH, the foreign sales agent for Night Moves, who was working at the Toronto Film Festival last week for the film. Also named as a defendant is UTA Independent Film Group. The agency division is the domestic sales agent for Night Moves. Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard are set to star.
The statute of limitations sank David Bergstein’s latest lawsuit against one of his former lawyers says a judge. Citing that the film financier’s claims against Teri Zimon for legal malpractice are subjected to a one-year statute of limitations under California law, Judge Alan Rosenfield granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment (read it here) on August 30. While this effectively throws the case against Zimon out and the $50M in damages that the film financier was seeking, Bergstein can still appeal the ruling.
WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The jury came back today with an additional judgment of $500,000 in punitive damages.
TUESDAY 7:15 PM: Deadline has learned that a Los Angeles Superior Court jury today unanimously awarded the controversial film financier David Bergstein the $49.5 million damages against his former in-house counsel Susan Tregub at Capitol Film for breach of fiduciary duty and legal malpractice. But this isn’t over yet. Today’s verdict determined that Tregub (now in private practice) acted with malice, so the second phase of the trial involving punitive damages will start tomorrow when the monetary figure could go higher.
The two-year case arose from Tregub going to work for Aramid Entertainment Fund in 2009 after Capitol.
Room With A View filmmakers Merchant Ivory are suing the distributers behind the Criterion Collection series for copyright infringement. In a 16-page complaint (read it here) filed Monday in Manhattan federal court, Merchant Ivory claims Janus Films is distributing 25 of the company’s movies despite an expired licensing deal. “Defendant Janus, without the permission, authorization or consent of Plaintiffs, has licensed and copied, distributed, reproduced, modified, performed and/or displayed the films in the Film Library, or have permitted others to do so, without the permission or consent of Plaintiffs, and continue to do so recklessly, willfully and maliciously in an attempt to damage the Plaintiff and enrich itself,” says the complaint. Wanting a jury trial, Merchant Ivory is seeking the court to stop Janus from further distribution as well as statutory damages of $150,000 for each infringement plus legal fees. Merchant Ivory is also seeking well any profits Janus many have made from the films in question and any losses it might have incurred in not being able to distribute them.
UPDATE, 2:29 PM: The Walt Disney Company has sent out a new statement about Imane Boudlal and the discrimination lawsuit she filed today against her former employer:
Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has a history of accommodating religious requests from cast members of all faiths. We presented Ms. Boudlal with multiple options to accommodate her religious beliefs, as well as offered her several roles that would have allowed her to wear her own hijab. Unfortunately, she rejected all of our efforts and has since refused to come to work. – Suzi Brown, Director, Media Relations and External Communication, Disneyland Resorts.
PREVIOUS, 10:25 AM: The American Civil Liberties Union today sued the Walt Disney Company for discrimination on behalf of a Muslim former Disneyland employee. The ACLU says that Imane Boudlal was fired in 2010 from her job at the theme park for wearing the hijab headscarf at work. The organization, with law firm Hadsell Stormer Richardson & Renick, filed the federal lawsuit today. In a 28-page complaint (read it here), the ACLU went after the Walt Disney Corporation on seven counts including discrimination and harassment in employment, and failure to remedy discrimination and harassment. The ACLU and Boudlal are asking for a jury trial as the plaintiff seeks applicable statutory, actual and punitive damages under each course of action as well as her legal fees. In the complaint, the ACLU is also requesting that the court order that all “Disney employees, supervisors, and managers regarding harassment and discrimination.” Ms. Boudlal says that besides the issues of the hijab, in beginning in the summer of 2008 she became the subject of insults based on her religion, national origin and skin color by fellow Disney workers and supervisors. Boudlal said today that she was called a “terrorist,” a “camel” and a “bitch” by supervisors and co-worker as well as repeatedly subjected to comments about Arabs being bombmakers and terrorists. “When she reported these attacks to her Disney managers, she was told that she had to put up with them, told that Disney knew there was a problem, but that the solution was the directive from her bosses that she needed to stop complaining”, said ACLU chief counsel Mark Rosenbaum today. ”Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has a long history of accommodating a variety of religious requests from cast members of all faiths. However, because we have not seen the lawsuit, we cannot comment specifically about this situation at this time”, Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown said in a statement.
Robert Kirkman has been bitten with a second The Walking Dead lawsuit from his former collaborator Michael Anthony Moore. In a nine-page complaint (Read it here) filed Tuesday, Moore says he wants a jury trial and “a …
It isn’t over in the legal battle between CBS and ABC over The Glass House. Despite a number of legal setbacks, CBS is still pursuing its claim that the ABC reality show is a rip-off of its Big Brother. Earlier this week, following a Magistrate Judge’s June 26 denial of a fast discovery process, the network submitted an amended lawsuit (Read it here) in the matter. Similar in many ways to the suit CBS filed on May 10, the 46-page July 30 filing says “consistent with Defendants’ intention to copy Big Brother, Glass House is nearly identical to Big Brother in every way”. Well, not every way. After a judge refused CBS’ request for a temporary restraining order against the new show, The Glass House debuted on June 18 to soft ratings and has continued to stay pretty low ever since. Big Brother, on the other hand, returned for a 14th season on July 12 and, while down from last year, has had strong ratings.
UPDATE: This afternoon CBS issued the following statement on the settlement with Happy Days actors Marion Ross, Erin Moran, Anson Williams, Don Most and the widow of Tom Bosley.
The case has been settled. All contractual obligations will be honored, as we had promised from the beginning. We appreciate the Court’s
Claiming breach of contract and four other counts, MGM put the legal gloves on today with Jake LaMotta and the producers of Raging Bull 2. In a 7-page complaint filed today (read it here) against the 91-year old former boxer and RB II Productions, MGM wants the courts to order production on Raging Bull 2, which is currently filming in LA, stopped. Additionally, the studio wants to make sure the indie movie never sees the light of day. MGM also wants compensatory damages and punitive and exemplary damages and more “awarded in an amount sufficient to punish the RB II defendants and to deter those who would commit or knowingly seek to profit from similar actions, now or in the future.”
MGM alleges LaMotta had no right to allow RB II Productions the rights to his 1986 sequel book without first offering it to them. That comes from a 1976 agreement the boxer and co-author Peter Savage entered into with Chartoff-Winkler Productions. That agreement, which MGM is the successor-in-interest to, not only included his 1970 memoir but extended to any “owner-written sequel,” says the studio. MGM says that RB II has ignored the studio’s attempts to get them and LaMotta to comply with the 1976 agreement.
Less than two months before The Expendables 2 comes out, Sylvester Stallone today scored an action hero legal victory. Judge Jed Rakoff rejected Marcus Webb’s claims that The Expendables was his original idea and Sly stole it. Webb …