In a lawsuit filed in California federal court on Thursday, two screenwriters argue that New Girl, the hit Fox comedy that debuted in 2011, is based upon their pilot script for a show entitled Square One. Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold are suing New Girl creator Elizabeth Meriwether, executive producer Peter Chernin, Fox, and WME and demanding an injunction that halts filming and distribution of the show.
Any differences between the scripts are so small and insignificant that they cannot be afforded copyright protection, and are, in fact, nothing more than transparent attempts to hide Defendants' blatant plagiarism. These differences are more akin to eraser marks or ink blots on Stephanie and Shari's creation and cannot be treated as original expression.
The suit then explains how Counts and Gold shopped the Square One script between 2006 and 2011 and it was viewed by "numerous" talent agencies, including the Endeavor agency (which later merged with William Morris Agency to become WME). Both women believe Meriwether "implausibly maintains" that she never saw any version of the Square One script before creating New Girl even though WME performed coverage of the script and communicated with the plaintiffs and their agent multiple times between 2007 and 2010. During this time period both Meriwether and New Girl's executive producer, Peter Chernin, were repped by WME.
Here is an overview of just some of the script similarities:
- both protagonists are awkward, quirky women around the age of thirty;
- the catalyst in each plot which commence each story line is are humiliating break ups;
- each humiliating break ups occur after the protagonist discovers infidelity;
- the name of the protagonist's unfaithful beau in each work is Spencer;
- the plot of both works revolves around the protagonist moving in with three guys; both break ups involve humiliating strip teases by the protagonist;
- in each work there is a cynical roommate who is a bartender;
- the cynical roommate and protagonist in each work become love interests;
- the three new guy roommates in each work have identical personality traits; roommates in each work act out their idiosyncrasies in identical ways;
- the insecure roommate in each work poses in a hyper-masculine way;
- the best friend in each work is named "CeCe" or has the initials "C.C.";
- both protagonists are given a new look by a sexually confident female friend;
- in each work the cynical bartender is taken with her new look;
- the protagonists are both sexually inexperienced; and
- the protagonist's boss in each script is dowdy and overly controlling.
According to the complaint, the women first sought counsel in 2011 and were offered a $10,000 legal settlement in "an attempt to silence and prevent them from seeking formal legal action against the Fox Defendants, the Chernin defendants, defendant WME, defendant Meriwether, and defendant Meriwether Pictures." Upset by the small sum, the plaintiffs then realized their attorney's law firm represented New Girl executive producer and director Jacob Kasdan. Citing a conflict of interest, both women rejected the settlement offer and hired a new attorney.
The paperwork filed Thursday asks specifically for compensatory damages, statutory damages, punitive and exemplary damages to punish the defendants, as well as an injunction halting the further copying, filming, reproduction, performance, and distribution of Square One as New Girl. Counts and Gold also want the defendants to issue a "public apology."
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