Pryor Cashman Wins Summary Judgment for Sylvester Stallone, Lions Gate and Nu Image/Millennium Films in "The Expendables" Copyright Infringement CaseLaw 360, The Hollywood Reporter, DNAinfo and Reuters
Pryor Cashman has won a major victory for clients Sylvester Stallone, Lions Gate Films and Nu Image/Millennium Films in a copyright infringement case concerning the star-studded action film The Expendables, which was co-written by, directed by and starred Stallone. The case, Marcus Webb v. Sylvester Stallone et al., was pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Plaintiff Marcus Webb alleged that the film infringed his screenplay entitled The Cordoba Caper, both of which tell the story of a team of highly-trained, elite mercenaries who are hired to topple a Latin American dictator named General Garza. Webb, who claimed to have submitted his script to numerous screenwriting competitions, argued that the film was “strikingly similar” to his screenplay. 1. There was no evidence indicating that Stallone had ever seen Webb’s screenplay: 2. The scripts are not even probatively, let alone strikingly, similar – so that plaintiff could not bypass the requirement of proving that Stallone had access to his screenplay: and 3. There is no substantial similarity of protected elements
Pryor Cashman moved for summary judgment on behalf of all defendants, arguing that there was no evidence of access by the defendants to Webb’s screenplay and that the film was not sufficiently similar to Webb’s script for a viable claim of infringement. On June 25, 2012, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff granted Pryor Cashman's motion for summary judgment in all respects,noting in his Order that a full opinion stating the reasons for the court’s ruling will follow in due course.
The sequel to the film, The Expendables 2, was released in August 2012.
On December 26, 2012, Judge Rakoff issued his opinion.The Court granted Pryor Cashman’s motion in basically all respects, finding that:
1. There was no evidence indicating that Stallone had ever seen Webb’s screenplay:
2. The scripts are not even probatively, let alone strikingly, similar – so that plaintiff could not bypass the requirement of proving that Stallone had access to his screenplay: and
3. There is no substantial similarity of protected elementsLitigation partners Tom J. Ferber and James A. Janowitz, along with associate Benjamin Akley, represented the defendants, including co-screenwriter David Callaham, who was dismissed from the case in April.
To read a copy of Judge Rakoff's December 26, 2012 opinion, please click here.
The case has received widespread media attention. To read the articles from the publications below, simply click on the link: