Judge Set to Nix ‘Walk of Shame’ Copyright Suit

     LOS ANGELES (CN) – A federal judge on Monday tentatively rejected a filmmaker’s claims that actress Elizabeth Banks copied his screenplay for her comedy film “Walk of Shame.”
     In 2014, writer-director Dan Rosen – known for writing the ’90s black comedy “Last Supper” – sued actress and producer Banks and the other filmmakers and companies behind her 2014 comedy, directed by Steve Brill.
     Banks, 41, has starred in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Role Models,” and made her directorial debut this year with the a cappella-comedy smash “Pitch Perfect 2.”
     Copyright lawsuits filed by aspiring screenwriters are a regular fixture in LA’s state and federal courts. But before he filed suit, Rosen had established himself as a working writer and director and went on to create several projects after “Last Supper,” including the movies “The Curve” and “Freeloaders.”
     In the federal copyright lawsuit filed by his company Shame On You Productions, Rosen says that he met Banks and her husband, author and producer Max Handelman, at the Mexicali restaurant in Studio City in August 2007 where they discussed his screenplay “Darci’s Walk of Shame” for three hours.
     Rosen says he wanted Banks to star in the film and buy the script. He says he brought a draft of the screenplay to the meeting.
     According to the lawsuit, Banks and Handelman told Rosen they were interested in the screenplay, took the copy he gave them, and said they would get back to him but never followed up.
     Years later, Rosen says he discovered through the industry website Deadline Hollywood that Banks was starring in “Walk of Shame” – a movie he says “borrows heavily” from his “Darci” screenplay.
     “Comparing the screenplay to the film ‘Walk of Shame,’ the plots, stories, characters, sequence of events, themes, and incidents portrayed in the two works are fictional and, in many respects, the elements in the two works are virtually identical,” the 2014 complaint states, listing 42 scene and dialogue similarities between the two works.
     But before a morning hearing at the Edward R. Roybal courthouse in downtown LA, U.S. District Judge Margaret Morrow issued tentative order to the parties granting Banks’ motion to dismiss claims of copyright infringement and breach of implied contract.
     Rosen, who was present during the hearing, left comment outside the courtroom to his attorneys Charles Coate and Theresa Johnson with the firm Abrams Coate.
     In a motion to dismiss, David Aronoff, an attorney for defendant Broken Road Productions, argued that the two movies were not “substantially similar” under copyright law.
     “Walk of Shame” is a “light-hearted comedy about Meghan Miles [Banks], a successful local news anchor in Los Angeles,” Aronoff wrote, while Rosen’s screenplay is a “vulgar romantic comedy about a crass Chicago woman who cannot hold a steady boyfriend and is forced to attend her sister’s wedding in Maui alone after she catches her boyfriend having an affair with her travel agent.”
     Aronoff told Morrow that “not surprisingly” he agreed with the court’s tentative ruling, noting that many of the similarities cited in Rosen’s complaint, including the inclusion of a “brightly colored dress,” were not the same on closer inspection.
     The Fox Rothschild attorney noted in his filing and later in court that the dress in “Walk of Shame” was a “sexy canary-yellow dress,” while the dress in Rosen’s work was an “ugly pink bridesmaid’s dress.”
     “Here we have similarities at a high level of abstraction,” Aronoff told Morrow.
     Banks’ attorney Stephen Mick of Barnes & Thornburg told Morrow that the two works had little in common except a title and idea.
     “But for the concept, which is not protectable, there is nothing here” Mick said.
     Coate countered that Morrow had conceded several similarities between the two works and that Banks had “direct access” to Rosen’s work after the 2007 meeting. Therefore, a jury should decide the case at trial, the attorney said.
     “I don’t actually concede anything,” Morrow said. “I’m not a party, Mr. Coate. I’m just trying to decide the case.”
     Morrow also told Coate early in proceedings that she had only identified “three or four” similarities between the two works.
     The judge took the case under submission. She did not indicate when she would issue an order.
     Coate said outside the courtroom that if Morrow makes her tentative ruling final, Rosen would consider an appeal or a claim in state court.

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