Penthouse Sues Jared Leto on Copyright Claims

LOS ANGELES (CN) – Penthouse Magazine has filed a complaint against Oscar-winner Jared Leto for copyright and trademark infringement, claiming he plans to adapt fiction for TV from a magazine created by Penthouse’s founder Bob Guccione.

Penthouse’s parent company Penthouse Global Media and General Media Communications sued Leto, who won an Oscar for best supporting actor in 2014’s “Dallas Buyer’s Club,” in federal court on Thursday. The 24-page lawsuit accuses Leto of working with named defendant Jerrick Media to create content using marks established when Guccione created the science fiction magazine Omni.

Guccione died in 2010 at age 79.

Variety reported in June that Leto partnered with the founder of Jerrick Media, defendant Rick Schwartz. Jerrick Media says it has rights to Omni magazine and has rebooted it after it ceased publication in 1995, according to Variety.  Authors Isaac Asimov, George RR Martin and William Gibson have appeared in the pages of the magazine.

“Omni was an incredibly important part of my childhood,” Leto told Variety. “The magazine exposed me to the world of science and fiction through the work of some of the world’s best writers. We couldn’t be more excited about this partnership and bringing these stories to life and breaking some rules while we do it.”

Penthouse would agree that Leto is indeed “breaking some rules” – by infringing on its intellectual property rights.

“Defendants’ dissemination of such information to the media reflects their ongoing and blatant disregard for the intellectual property rights of Penthouse and their manifest intent to capitalize on those rights for their own gain,” Penthouse’s complaint states.

Leto and his company Paradox are among eight named defendants in the lawsuit, which also alleges copyright infringement of Guccione’s 1979 cult movie “Caligula.” However, the suit limits claims against Leto to his plans to adapt Omni’s stories.

The “Caligula” claims center around defendant Jeremy Frommer, an entrepreneur who uncovered erotic photos, films, magazines, artworks, illustrations and other archival material created by Guccione after he bought the contents of an Englewood, New Jersey, storage facility, according to the lawsuit.

Penthouse says that Frommer acquired the rights to Guccione’s property that same year from James Sell, who had won a judgment against Guccione in Arizona.

Frommer created a website called the Guccione Collection to sell the items and to allow visitors to watch “Caligula,” Penthouse claims.

After Penthouse successfully shut the website down, the Guccione Collection asked a Delaware bankruptcy court in 2013 to declare that it was not infringing on Penthouse’s intellectual property rights. The parties ultimately dismissed the case before a judge could rule, Penthouse says.

Penthouse Global Media acquired Penthouse’s assets in 2016. It says even though it never transferred or licensed any intellectual property rights to “Caligula,” that the defendants are streaming the film for rent and sale at the video sharing site, Vimeo.

Penthouse says that Jerrick Media is using the Omni and “Caligula” marks in a “manner that is likely to cause confusion.” Jerrick Media Holdings said it believes the complaint is without merit and plans to “vigorously defend against it.”

The lawsuit says that Frommer and Rick Schwartz‘s reboot of Omni as an online science fiction magazine has used archival material, including articles and reproductions of covers from Guccione’s magazine, which he first published in 1978.

Penthouse seeks damages, an injunction barring the defendants from continued use of Penthouse’s intellectual property, attorney fees and costs. Caroline Mankey of Sedgwick, California, represents the company.

A representative for Leto could not immediately be reached for comment by phone or email on Friday.

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