Saturday, April 5, 2014

The real "Ghost Hunters" lawsuit loses in court

After more than seven years of litigation, including at one point a bad setback that NBCUniversal attempted to bring to the Supreme Court's attention, the entertainment giant has finally beaten a lawsuit that claimed it had stolen the idea behind the hit Syfy reality show Ghost Hunters. This week, a California appeals court ordered a lower court to grant the studio summary judgment because the plaintiffs hadn't brought their claims in a timely fashion. The ruling follows a vindication several months ago for series producer Pilgrim Films & Television.

The case was originally filed in 2006 by Larry Montz, a parapsychologist, and Daena Smoller, a publicist, who alleged they conceived the idea of a show about a team of paranormal investigators who go into haunted locations. The two claimed to have presented screenplays, videos and other materials to NBCU execs between 1996 and 2001.

In suing NBCU and Pilgrim over Ghost Hunters, Montz and Smoller looked to leverage a legal claim that's been trendy in the past decade. After first suing for copyright -- which is notoriously tough for plaintiffs because the law only protects expression and not ideas -- the two sued for breach of an implied contract, which essentially means that when something is submitted and accepted for review, there's an expectation that if the material is later used, the idea presenter will get something.

Hollywood studios have argued that writers are merely disguising their copyright claims as contract claims, but judges have given the green light to these lawsuits so long as plaintiffs can assert an "extra element," like a promise of payment.

Read Full Story: The Hollywood Reporter

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