Elizabeth Banks and the producers of “Walk of Shame” have been sued over allegedly stealing the story from a writer’s screenplay. Dan Rosen filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles through his Shame on You Productions whose screen credits include The Last Supper and Freeloaders. Rosen alleges copyright infringement and breach of implied-in-fact contract, asserting that the ideas in “Walk of Shame” were taken from his “Darci’s Walk of Shame” script. Rosen alleges that he sent his screenplay to Banks in 2007 through a mutual acquaintance, and then met with Banks and her husband Max Handelman, who produces films through Brownstone Productions. The suit alleges that Banks and Handelman retained the Screenplay, and never returned any version of it.
Now it is targeting Banks, Handelman, Walk of Shame writer and director Steven Brill, Focus World, Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, FilmDistrict and Lakeshore Entertainment for copyright infringement and breach of implied-in-fact contract.
The suit asserts that both scripts involve a pretty blonde woman in her thirties in a big city who goes through a break-up with her boyfriend, commiserates with her best girlfriends, gets drunk, spends the night with a younger man she just met, wakes up the next morning at his place and puts on her “inappropriate” outfit from the night before. Less than a week after Walk of Shame was simultaneously released in theaters and through VOD outlets, its producers have been hit with a lawsuit that claims that the indie film starring Elizabeth Banks was misappropriated from a writer’s screenplay.
But according to the motion, WOS is a lighthearted comedy about a successful news anchor in Los Angeles, who, after having a one night stand must find her way back to her local news agency to audition for her dream job, Darci’s, by contrast, is a surreal tale about a woman who is forced to attend her sister’s wedding in Maui wearing a hideous bridesmaid’s dress, tries and fails to have a one night stand and then proceeds to fall in love with her local cab- driving/helicopter piloting/firefighting companion.
The allegation of an actual meeting with Banks, if true, is impactful for two reasons. First, under what’s known as the inverse ratio rule, a high degree of access to the plaintiff’s work may allow the plaintiff to prevail on a copyright claim with a lesser degree of similarity. And second, the implied contract claim means that when Rosen had his meeting with Banks and Handelman, he could be deemed as having a rightful expectation of payment if his material was later used. On the other hand, coincidences do occur, and some ideas are generic and non-protectable. If the film project came about through independent creation, the lawsuit would fail.
Now, after months of somewhat nasty fighting between the parties over depositions, Lakeshore Entertainment has filed motion for judgment on the pleadings on the basis that besides a generic idea of a woman who has too much to drink one night and suffers the consequences the next day, there’s not much in common between Walk of Shame and “Darci’s Walk of Shame.”
Keywords: copyright infringement, breach of implied-in-fact contract, Elizabeth Banks, Walk of Shame, Lakeshore Entertainment.