LOS ANGELES (CN) - A federal judge closed the curtains on claims that John Travolta's younger brother Joey copied a film program about young autistic filmmakers and used it to get sponsors for a competing class.
According to U.S. District Judge Christina Snyder, although Travolta and his film company did not successfully invalidate the two copyright claims, the lawsuit must still be dismissed in its entirety since it was filed beyond the three-year statute of limitations.
In February of 2014, Actors for Autism CEO Dr. Alisa Wolf sued Joseph "Joey" Travolta and his company Inclusion Films, accusing them of copying passages from Wolf's 2006 textbook, "Practical Film Vocational Program."
Wolf and Travolta were working together until they ended their professional relationship in 2006. Travolta had been the president of the Tarzana-based company Actors for Autism, which offers classes in acting, filmmaking, animation and other performing arts for ages 6 and up.
Travolta then started his own company Inclusion Films, a Burbank studio which offers filmmaking programs for adults with developmental disabilities.
Wolf claimed Travolta used her work to attract sponsors to his program. She stated in the lawsuit that she expects the actor and filmmaker to generate more than $5 million in sponsorship.
To make matters worse, Wolf claimed that the perception is that Actors for Autism plagiarized the text from Travolta's film program.
In a 39-page ruling, Snyder initially addressed Travolta's attempt to invalidate Wolf's claims by suggesting her works are not protectable since she copied portions of her works from a third-party source.
"A reasonable jury could find that despite any substantial similarities between plaintiffs' works and those of third-party sources, those additional portions of plaintiffs' works are not traceable to any third-party source demonstrate that the derivative portions do not pervade the entire works," Snyder wrote.
After finding that Wolf's works are protected, Snyder ruled that the copyright claims must be dismissed since they began to accrue in 2006 and 2007. Wolf failed to show that any acts of infringement occurred after February 2011 - other than "naked allegations and speculation" - in order for her claims to meet the appropriate three-year time window, Snyder said.
Furthermore, Snyder found no evidence that Travolta or the other defendants had made any use of Wolf's works later that would keep the window open. Although other programs throughout Southern California may have done so, Wolf did not show Travolta had anything to do with them, Snyder said.
In addition to her copyright allegations, Wolf also tied state-law claims to 2006, when she "first suspected that Travolta was interfering with contracts that were being sought after by Actors for Autism."
Wolf also stated that in July of that same year she asked Travolta to resign as president of Actors for Autism, "due to his indiscretions as the AFA board felt [at the time] that they could not discuss any prospective business contacts or programs, in fear that Travolta would steal them."
But Snyder dismissed the state-law claims as well, again finding them outside the statute of limitations and that Wolf couldn't show that Travolta had continued using trade secrets or interfering with economic relationships in order to keep the claims alive.
John Travolta was not a party to the complaint.
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