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Court Wrangle Over ‘Wheel of Time’ Fantasy

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The producer of a TV pilot based on "The Wheel of Time" series says in court that the author's widow is falsely claiming that Universal holds movie and TV rights to the epic fantasy series.

Manetheren and its controlling shareholder Red Eagle Entertainment on Thursday sued novelist James O. Rigney's widow Harriet P. McDougal and her company, Bandersnatch Group Entertainment Group, in Federal Court. Manetheren seeks damages for breach of contract, slander of title, and interference with contract and with prospective economic relations.

Rigney, who died in 2007, wrote under the pen name Robert Jordan.

Manetheren claims its predecessor-in-interest in 2004 optioned rights to make a television series or movie based on the first book in Rigney's series "The Eye of the World."

Under the agreement, Manetheren says, it agreed that film rights would revert to McDougal if it had not made a movie or television project by Feb. 11, 2015.

As it tried to get the project off the ground, Manetheren says, it paid McDougal almost $630,000 for the option and two extensions to the option term.

The production company says it was in talks with Universal to make a movie based on "The Eye of the World." To get the movie made, Manetheren says, it entered into an agreement that granted Universal a "limited-time" interest in the book. When Universal failed to make the movie, the producer says, rights reverted to Manetheren.

In the summer of 2014, Manetheren says, it set up meetings with Universal's competitor Sony Pictures International to make a television pilot, and asked McDougal to consult on the project.

McDougal and her attorney were at meetings in Los Angeles to discuss the series with Sony, and she never raised "any questions about Manetheren's rights in the property or its ability to proceed with the television production," the complaint states.

The production company says it produced a pilot that was broadcast on the FXX cable channel in early February this year.

After the pilot aired, McDougal issued a statement about the pilot on social media, according to the complaint.

"In this statement, defendant McDougal disparagingly referred to the pilot in quotation marks and cast doubt upon plaintiffs' rights to produce the pilot by unequivocally denying knowledge of those rights while asserting that Universal still possessed rights to produce the program. She asserted that she was 'dumbfounded' by the release of the pilot and assured her readers that she would be 'taking steps to prevent its reoccurrence,'" the Feb. 12 lawsuit states.

Manetheren claims that McDougal knowingly made false statements "to devalue and cast ridicule on the picture and all who participated in its making, and economically injure the business prospects of Manetheren."

It claims that McDougal's statements interfered with Manetheren's ability to make a series at Sony by "questioning the legitimacy of Manetheren's rights and by raising the spectre of a challenge from Universal."

"Ms. McDougal's actions appear to have been motivated in the pursuit of monetary gain at the expense of the now vested and irrevocable rights that Manetheren LLC now holds in the property," the complaint states.

Manetheren seeks compensatory and exemplary damages, and a declaration that it has the right to exploit the book.

It is represented by Stephen P. Crump with Freund & Brackey of Beverly Hills.

Bandersnatch Group and McDougal declined to comment.

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