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James Cameron, Fox Get ‘Avatar’ Copyright Suit Dismissed

By | Monday September 17, 2012 @ 5:49pm PDT

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. Read More »

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‘Night Moves’ Director, Producers, UTA Sued By Edward Pressman & Edward Abbey Widow For Copyright Infringement

By | Saturday September 15, 2012 @ 12:56pm PDT

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 EisenbergDakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard are set to star. Read More »

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Film Financier David Bergstein’s $50M Case Against 2nd Ex-Lawyer Tossed Out

By | Tuesday September 4, 2012 @ 8:23pm PDT

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. Read More »

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Sam Raimi Wins ‘Evil Dead’ Sequel Court Battle

By | Tuesday August 28, 2012 @ 11:02am PDT

The Evil Dead sequel is dead. A California federal court awarded Sam Raimi’s Renaissance Pictures a default judgment last week in its attempt to stop Awards Pictures from making an Evil Dead 4. In the four-page judgment (read it here), Judge Dale Fisher said that Awards Pictures are “permanently enjoined” from “using the EVIL DEAD name or mark or any derivation or colorable imitations thereof, or any name or mark that is confusingly similar thereto, including but not limited to the names Evil Dead; Evil Dead: Genesis of the Necronomicon; Evil Dead: Genesis of the Necronomicon, Part 2; Evil Dead: Consequences, (collectively, the “Prohibited Names”), as or as part of the title of a motion picture, television program, video game, play, book or any other form of entertainment provided or to be provided through any media, or in connection with the promotion, development, distribution, or production of any form of entertainment.” Renaissance, which was formed in 1979 by Raimi, Bruce Campbell and Robert Tapert for the original 1981 Evil Dead film, sued the little known Award Pictures back in early May for trademark infringement and a series of other related counts over the latter’s intention to produce an Evil Dead film of their own. Awards had claimed that Raimi, who is currently producing an Evil Dead reboot scheduled to come out next spring, abandoned the trademark when he publicly stated in 2000 that Renaissance would never do another Evil DealRead More »

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Kathryn Bigelow, Summit Fight Back In ‘Hurt Locker’ Suit With Army Vet

The Oscar winning director, the studio and screenwriter Mark Boal say the First Amendment protects them in use of elements of Jeffrey Sarver’s life in The Hurt Locker. “By any reasonable measure, the film must be considered a ‘transformative’ work of artistic expression that is protected by the First Amendment,” they said in an 87-page brief (read it here) submitted earlier this week to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The brief goes on to say that there are only “generic similarities” between Sarver and the William James character played by Jeremy Renner in the 2008 film. This case may sound familiar. The former US Army explosive technician Master Sargent had his initial invasion of privacy 2010 suit against Bigelow, Boal and others dismissed in October 2011. At that time, Sarver was ordered to pay $187,000 in lawyers’ fees to Bigelow, Boal, Summit and the Hurt Locker production. The former Master Sgt. appealed that ruling last November. In his own brief (read it here) filed on July 2 against Playboy as well as Bigelow, Boal and others, the veteran claimed that the film’s use of his life was not transformative at all, that it violated his right of publicity and First Amendment rights have to balanced against his own right of privacy. Bigelow, Boal and Summit’s lawyers disagree. “Appellant cannot state a cause of action for … Read More »

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UPDATE: Capitol’s David Bergstein Awarded $50M+$500K In Lawsuit Against Ex-Counsel

By | Wednesday August 22, 2012 @ 5:07pm PDT

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The jury came back today with an additional judgment of $500,000 in punitive damages.

David BergsteinTUESDAY 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.

Related: David Bergstein Sues Aramid Entertainment

The two-year case arose from Tregub going to work for Aramid Entertainment Fund in 2009 after Capitol. Read More »

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Viacom Overpaid Redstone, CEO & COO Millions, Shareholder Lawsuit Claims

By | Tuesday August 21, 2012 @ 5:24pm PDT

Robert Freedman claims that Viacom chairman Sumner Redstone, CEO Philippe Dauman and COO Thomas Dooley were overpaid $36.6 million and the shareholder is taking the trio to court to get the money back. In a 17-page complaint (read it here) filed on August 17, Freedman says that between 2008 and 2011 the three were incorrectly awarded millions by Viacom’s board’s compensation committee in direct violation of the company’s own 2007 executive pay plan.  Calling the payments “unjust enrichment” and based on “subjective measure,” the Viacom shareholder wants the court to compel Redstone, Dauman and Dooley, as well as the several compensation committee members named as defendants, to repay the $36,645.750 plus his legal fees. Not that big payouts are anything new for the three at Viacom. In 2011, Dauman received $43.1 million from the company in salary, stock and other compensation. That was down from the $84.5 million he made in 2010 but that’s in part because of the big resigning bonus Dauman got when he renegotiated his contract that year. COO Dooley made $34.1 million in 2011 and Redstone took home $21 million as executive chairman. In the action, filed in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, Freedman also wants the court to force Viacom to not pay such “excessive compensation” again and to let Class B shareholders to vote on the 2012 executive pay plan approved at Viacom’s annual meeting on March 8, … Read More »

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Criterion’s Janus Films Sued By Merchant Ivory For Copyright Infringement

By | Tuesday August 21, 2012 @ 10:25am PDT

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. Read More »

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Judge Dismisses Hulu’s Attempt To Get Privacy Violation Suit Dismissed

By | Tuesday August 14, 2012 @ 12:03pm PDT

Despite their best legal efforts, Hulu aren’t off the class action hook yet. They may have gotten several claims in the year-old unauthorized data sharing suit against them dismissed, but the website will still have to face a charge of violating the Video Privacy Protection Act. In a 12-page order (read it here) a federal judge last week rejected Hulu’s motion to dismiss the final claim. Hulu argued that the Act, which was passed in 1988, didn’t specifically deal with the issue of digitally transmitted content. The court wasn’t buying it. “Give Congress’ concern with protecting consumer’s privacy in an evolving technological world, the court rejects the argument,” wrote Judge Laurel Beeler. The judge’s order allowing the action to continue came over year after plaintiffs Joseph Garvey and Stacey Tsan filed their initial suit against Hulu and web analytics company Kissmetrics on July 29, 2011. The plaintiffs claimed that Hulu illegally “retransmitted their viewing choices to a number of third parties.” The parties were listed as Scorecard Research, Facebook, Google Analytics and online ad networks DoubleClick and Quantserve. The 2011 suit also claims that the subscriber service hacked and repurposed the plaintiffs’ browser caches with secret cookies and other tracking information. The latest order by the judge last week moves the case forward. It follows hearings in San Francisco on the matter on June 7, in which Hulu failed to show that the plaintiffs weren’t harmed by its tracking … Read More »

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Muslim Woman Sues Disney Over Right To Wear Hijab

By | Monday August 13, 2012 @ 10:25am PDT

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.

Read More »

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‘The Walking Dead’s Robert Kirkman Sued Again By Former Partner

By | Wednesday August 8, 2012 @ 12:59pm PDT

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 declaratory judgment that he is a joint author” of the comic on which the post-apocalyptic AMC series is based. Moore also wants co-ownership of other properties such as Battle Pope, Brit, Dead Planet and My Name is Abraham that he says he and Kirkman “jointly created.” Moore filed this latest suit in federal court even as the first suit he filed in February is in the discovery process in California Superior Court. AMC is not named as a defendant in either suit. In this week’s filing, which claims it is necessary so the state court can “properly award the correct amount of money due and owing to Moore,” the plaintiff says if it is decided his way he will “pursue his rights as a co-owner to proceeds generated from the Works.” In his suit earlier this year, Moore sought rights and royalties on The Walking Dead that he says Kirkman promised him. Moore claims he was persuaded in 2005 by Kirkman to give his rights to a limited company that Kirkman controlled in exchange for assured payments. Moore says he never got the money and that the … Read More »

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CBS Goes After ABC’s ‘The Glass House’ Again In Court

By | Thursday August 2, 2012 @ 2:42pm PDT

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. Read More »

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CBS, ‘Happy Days’ Actors Settle Lawsuit Over Merchandising Fees

By | Friday July 6, 2012 @ 3:26pm PDT

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 earlier dismissal of the far-reaching claims, which paved the way for an ordinary settlement based on contractual issues.

PREVIOUS: Just 11 days before they were to go to trial, CBS and Happy Days’ actors Marion Ross, Erin Moran, Anson Williams and Don Most, plus the widow of Tom Bosley, have reached at settlement in the actors’ merchandising lawsuit. Sources tell Deadline that the actors will receive between $60,000 and $65,000 each. The actors, who played Mrs. C., Joanie, Potsie and Ralph on Happy Days, sued CBS last year for $10 million. Henry Winkler and Ron Howard, who played the Fonz and Ritchie Cunningham on Happy Days, were not a part of the lawsuit. CBS distributes the iconic 70s TV series. The actors filed their multimillion-dollar breach of contract complaint  on April 19, 2011 (read it here) after a friend told Ross about Happy Days-themed slot machines she noticed at a casino. Ross and the other actors contacted CBS about them and the use of their images on them. As it wound it’s way through the courts, the suit eventually became about the actor’s likeness on DVD boxsets. Ross, Moran, Williams and Most are … Read More »

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Weinsteins Ordered To Show ‘Escape From Planet Earth’ To Filmmakers Suing For $50M

They didn’t get to make Escape From Planet Earth but the producer and the director suing the Weinstein Company for $50 million will get to see it soon. “Brian Inerfeld, Tony Leech and their counsel (collectively “Plaintiffs) shall be permitted to view the current version of the film titled Escape From Planet Earth ( “the Draft Film”) at a private screening arranged by The Weinstein Company, LLC (“TWC”),” ordered judge Paul Feinman about the animated film on June 18. This ruling (read it here), said the judge, “ conjunction with ongoing settlement discussions” between the parties in the multi-million suit that Inerfeld, Leech and Protocal Pictures filed against the Weinsteins last March.  In standard procedural legal language, the New York Supreme Court judge also reminded the plaintiffs that they “shall not reveal any information about the Draft Film to any person not entitled to receive such information under the terms of the Confidentiality Order.” Escape From Planet Earth is scheduled to be released on February 14, 2013. No word on when or where the screening for Leech and Inerfeld will be held. The Weinstein brothers are not expected to be in attendance for the screening. However, with the parties at this stage, in what has been a contentious and salacious suit so far, any settlement talks must be now discussing credits for Leech, who also co-wrote the original script, and Inerfeld.

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MGM Files ‘Raging Bull 2′ Lawsuit Against Jake LaMotta & Sequel Producers

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.

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Bristol Palin And A&E Sued Over TV Series

By | Monday July 2, 2012 @ 6:42pm PDT

Bristol Palin is being sued again by talent manager Stephen Hanks because of her reality TV show. Sarah Palin’s daughter is the star of the floundering series Bristol Palin: Life’s A Tripp on Lifetime. Hanks filed a new lawsuit for defamation and invasion of privacy on June 28th. (He’d filed earlier this month seeking $75,000 against Palin and Lifetime.) Now Hanks says “plaintiff has learned of additional defendants”. Now being sued are Palin, Lifetime’s parent company A&E Television Network, production company Associated Television International, and Life’s A Tripp exec producer David McKenzie. In a 15-page civil complaint (read it here), Hanks is seeking unnamed compensatory damages, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages.

Palin’s show is getting more attention in the courts than it is from viewers. Life’s A Tripp proved a flop when it debuted on June 19th and has since been moved off A&E subsidiary Lifetime’s primetime schedule. There is still another lawsuit pending: Christopher and Kyle Masse are suing ATI and McKenzie alleging that the producers cut them out of the Bristol reality show on Lifetime. Unlike Hanks’ suit, Palin herself is not named in the Massey action. Hanks initially garnered attention for heckling Bristol over her mother’s politics. She in turn called him a “homosexual” in a heated encounter in a West Hollywood bar on September 22, 2011. Hanks later claimed he was filmed without permission. Hanks in his latest lawsuit says that because of Palin’s actions, which are described in the suit as “deliberate, malicious and despicable”, he … Read More »

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Star Wars’ Hayden Christensen’s USA Network ‘Royal Pains’ Lawsuit Revived

By | Wednesday June 27, 2012 @ 9:26am PDT

Looks like the Force is truly strong with this one after all. Star Wars’ Hayden Christensen and his brother Tove were handed a new life yesterday in their suit with USA Network over Royal Pains. The brothers allege that the idea for the USA series was lifted from their much-circulated Housecall show concept and they want to be compensated. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in New York agreed. “Plaintiffs-Appellant adequately alleged a contract that includes an implied promise to pay. Because this claim is based on rights that are not the equivalent of those protected by the Copyright Act, it is not preempted,” said Judge John Walker. The Judge’s 25-page ruling (Read it here) reversed a federal court dismissal of the case last year on the grounds of copyright outweighing breach of contract allegation Christensen’s Forest Park production company developed their Housecall idea several years ago. Like Royal Pains, which debuted in June 2009, Housecall detailed the exploits of a disgraced doctor who took to privately treating the wealthy. The Christensen’s show took place in Malibu not the Hamptons as the USA Network’s series does, but otherwise the shows are very similar. The brothers met with USA’s Alex Sepiol about Housecall but never had a deal. However those meetings provide the foundation for the Christensen’s breach of implied contract claim. “Because Forest Park has alleged an enforceable implied-in-fact contract including a promise of payment for the … Read More »

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CBS Suffers Another ‘Glass House’ Legal Setback

By | Tuesday June 26, 2012 @ 5:21pm PDT

CBS was today denied their request for a fast discovery process in the network’s lawsuit against ABC’s Glass House. This comes less than a week after a District Court judge in the case (read it here) refused CBS’ request for a temporary restraining order to stop production and broadcasting of Glass House, which debuted on June 18 as planned. “In view of the District Court’s ruling, there is no basis for expedited discovery,” ruled Magistrate Judge John McDermott today. On May 10, CBS sued ABC and various Glass House producers claiming their new show was a ripoff of the network’s Big Brother. McDermott’s four page order (Read it here) takes a lot of the urgency out of CBS’s case. In fact, the judge noted that if the dueling networks can’t work out some of the discovery process themselves, CBS can present a new motion after an upcoming scheduling conference. As the discovery aspect of the case moved forward and backward, CBS file a request for a TRO on June 7 to stop Glass House. Judge Gary Feess said at a June 15 hearing with both network’s lawyer that he was inclined to deny the request. “CBS has not convinced me that they will succeed in their copyright claims,” he said. “CBS seeks to protect the idea of a show of contestants in a house where cameras are running…you can’t copyright that…. I don’t … Read More »

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Court Sides With Stallone Over ‘Expendables’ Script

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 sued Stallone, the retro action flick’s co-author David Callaham, Millennium Films, Nu Image Films and Lionsgate in late October 2011. In his initial suit, Webb said he circulated a script several years ago among studios about “elite highly trained mercenaries” recruited to defeat a dictator. Webb alleged that the screenplay for The Expendables is “strikingly similar and in some places identical” to his The Cordoba Caper. Webb claimed that Stallone, who directed, co-wrote and starred in The Expendables, and his team must have seen his script because they were so alike. The Rocky star’s lawyers said that was unlikely especially being that one was an action movie and Webb’s was more of a caper flick. The lawyers also pointed out that Callaham had already written several drafts of what was to become 2010’s The Expendables before Webb’s script was even out there. The judge, who said a more formal order would be forthcoming, obviously agreed. The Expendables 2 comes out on August 17, 2012.

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