‘G.I. Joe’ Writers Sue Studio for $23 million

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – Screenwriters for the first movie in the “G.I. Joe” franchise sued Paramount for $23 million, claiming the studio swiped their “blockbuster” work for the sequel, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.”
     Writing team David Elliot and Paul Lovett sued Paramount, production and distribution company Di Bonaventure Pictures, toymaker Hasbro, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, in Federal Court, alleging copyright infringement and breach of implied contract.
     Hasbro owns the G.I. Joe action figures, introduced in 1964.
     But the screenwriters claim ownership of several elements in this year’s sequel.
     They were not to write a screenplay for the sequel, but claim that Paramount gave them a “‘blank slate'” to pitch a reboot of the franchise by developing their own characters and ideas.
     Elliot and Lovett say they were hired to co-write the screenplay for the first G.I. Joe movie “G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra,” sharing credit with one other screenwriter – credited on entertainment website IMDB.com as (nonparty) Stuart Beattie.
     After the release of the first G.I. Joe movie in 2009, Paramount, Hasbro and Di Bonaventure asked the plaintiffs to pitch ideas for the follow-up, the complaint states.
     The screenwriters claim they pitched “original plotlines, themes, characters, relationships, settings, scenes, sequences, dialogue, mood, pacing and fictional inventions,” and wrote a story outline, or treatment, as it is known in the industry.
     In December 2009, the studio hired a different writing team. IMDB credits (nonparties) Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick writers of the sequel.
     Elliot and Lovett waited more than two years to register their treatment, but did so on May 22, 2012 with the U.S. Copyright Office, the complaint states.
     “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” opened in the United States in March this year. The plaintiffs claim that “even the most cursory review” of their work and the sequel “reveals that they are substantially similar in every material way.”
     “While plaintiffs make no claims to the elements of the Joe Retaliation Movie that are subject to Hasbro’s pre-existing copyrights in the G.I. Joe characters, plaintiffs take great issue with those elements of the Joe Retaliation movie that are the expression of plaintiffs’ personal creativity and plaintiffs’ unique creation of plaintiffs’ proposed sequel that were not part of the Joe Cobra Movie and that were not scenes a faire [scene to be made] of the genre,” the complaint states.
     It continues: “These original inventions, which make plaintiffs’ proposed sequel a compelling piece of story-telling, have been stolen by the PDH [Paramount, Di Bonaventure and Hasbro] defendants in the hopes of infusing the Joe Retaliation movie with the blockbuster power of plaintiffs’ work.”
     Elliot and Lovett cite several structural similarities, and present a side-by-side comparison between scenes in their story and scenes in the finished film.
     “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” is a science fiction, action-adventure, starring Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
     G.I. Joe has also been adapted into comic books, cartoons, and video games.
     The screenwriters seek a constructive trust over revenue from “G.I. Joe: Retaliation,” and $23 million in damages.
     They are represented by Henry Gradstein with Gradstein & Marzano.
     Paramount did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

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