In a case of “idea theft,” film industry defendants who argued the right to free speech protected them against a claim of stealing a screenplay that was later made into “The Purge” films were recently slapped down by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Jordan-Benel v. Universal City Studios Inc., et al., No. 15-56045 (9th Cir., 2017).
In 2011, screenwriter Douglas J. penned a screenplay entitled “Settler’s Day,” depicting a futuristic landscape of lawlessness and chaos, which he registered with the U.S. Copyright Office. Douglas’s agent submitted the screenplay to persons at United Talent Agency (UTA). After saying it would pass on the screenplay, UTA forwarded it to other clients of UTA, who allegedly adapted it into “The Purge.” The film and its sequel were released in 2013 and 2014, produced by Universal City Studios and four other production companies.
In 2015, Douglas filed a complaint for copyright infringement against UTA and the production company defendants, claiming breach of an implied-in-fact contract based on defendants’ implied agreement to compensate and credit him as a writer/creator should his idea be used. He alleged that defendants breached this agreement by using and profiting from his ideas without compensation or credit, seeking declaratory relief. Continue reading