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Two Producers Dismissed in "The Purge" Copyright Infringement Lawsuit

A 2014 lawsuit against Universal City Studios, United Talent Agency ("UTA"), and writer, James DeMonaco ("DeMonaco"), which was previously covered in our post, "'The Purge' Creators Sued for Copyright Infringement," has since survived several motions to dismiss. Recently, the screenwriter who alleged the horror film, "The Purge," plagiarized his script, Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald to reconsider his order that dismissed two of the film's producers from the suit.

The order dismissed Defendants, Blumhouse Productions LLC ("Blumhouse") and Overlord Productions LLC ("Overlord"), from the complaint because the plaintiff did not allege they had any access to his screenplay. However, the aggrieved screenwriter, Douglas Jordan-Benel ("Jordan-Benel"), claimed they are still liable under 17 U.S.C. ยง106 because copyright infringement is a strict liability tort. Jordan-Benel insisted that the knowledge or intent to infringe is not necessary, and that if he can allege copyright infringement against one defendant, then all defendants in the distribution chain are likewise liable.

Additionally, Jordan-Benel contended Blumhouse and Overlord also violated his exclusive rights, and further argued that the court failed to provide him with an opportunity to argue his position either in the pleading stage or during oral argument.

In February, Judge Fitzgerald dismissed Jordan-Benel's breach of contract claims, but granted leave to amend them. After review and analysis of the second amended complaint, Judge Fitzgerald denied a bid by Universal, Platinum Dunes Productions, Why Not Productions Inc., and DeMonaco to be dismissed from the case. Judge Fitzgerald also denied an anti-SLAPP motion by the production defendants and denied UTA's motion to dismiss all of Jordan-Benel's claims except for his declaratory relief claim. The Judge granted the production defendants' motion to strike the plaintiff's request for statutory damages and attorneys' fees under The Copyright Act, but denied the motion with respect to the amended allegations.

The legal team at SFMS has significant experience litigating breach of contract matters. If you have any questions regarding this subject or this posting, please contact Chiharu Sekino (csekino@sfmslaw.com) or Alec Berin (aberin@sfmslaw.com). We can also be reached toll-free at (866) 540-5505.

Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller & Shah, LLP is a law firm with offices in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. SFMS also maintains affiliate offices in London, England and Milan, Italy, and is an active member of Integrated Advisory Group (www.iaginternational.org), which provides us with the ability to provide our clients with access to excellent legal and accounting resources throughout the globe. For more information about our firm, please visit us at www.sfmslaw.com.

The case is Jordan-Benel v. Universal City Studios Inc. et al., case number 2:14-cv-05577, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.

SOURCES

Knaub, Kelly. "'Purge' Producers Wrongly Cut From Suit, Screenwriter Says." Law360. Last modified on September 14, 2015.

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