The football comedy series Ballers from the premium cabler took a hit today with a copyright lawsuit that has as many twists and turns as some of the best NFL plays you’d see on any given Sunday. Writers Everette Silas and Sherri Littleton sued HBO, star and EP Dwayne Johnson, EP Mark Wahlberg and creator and EP Stephen Levinson in federal court Thursday. Seeking unspecified punitive, compensatory and special damages, the duo claim the cabler and the producers lifted the concept for the gridiron version of Entourage, which Wahlberg and Levinson also EP’d, from their Off Season idea.
“Plaintiffs are informed and believe and on that basis allege, that the more recent work, Ballers, borrows heavily from the Materials and that certain aesthetic elements, including, without limitation, physical appearance of the characters and their vehicles, and plots, scenes, as well as story lines are virtually identical to the Materials that the Defendants had access to,” says the jury trial seeking complaint of December 17 (read it here). “The stories, character traits, scenes, and incidents portrayed in the two works, Ballers and Off Season, are, in many respects, virtually identical and strikingly similar. These substantially similar elements, coupled with the Defendants’ direct access to the Materials, leaves little doubt that numerous elements of Ballers were copied from Off Season.” Ballers debuted on June 21 this year and was renewed this summer for a second season.
“We are confident the case has no merit,” an HBO spokesperson said today. Reps for Wahlberg, Levinson and Johnson did not respond to request for comment on the action. The lawsuit never has Silas and Littleton actually meeting with Wahlberg, Levinson and Johnson or their direct reps over Off Season. What it does have is their names being mentioned in 2008 and 2009 by producers the duo were talking to as possibly being attached to the project. The writers purport they were told that their materials were passed on to the trio.
With cameos by then HBO CEO Chris Albrecht and IMG board member Steve Mayer, Silas and Littleton’s contrast and graphic heavy filing says a deal to make Off Season with Wahlberg, Levinson and Johnson supposedly involved fell through in January 2009. The agreement was with producers Richard Brustein, Mayhem Pictures’ Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray, who had produced 2007’s The Game Plan with Johnson and 2006’s Invincible, which starred Wahlberg.”Plaintiffs refused to sign the Agreement because it came with a verbal condition that required Plaintiffs to remove their names from the “Created By” credits, which Plaintiffs were not willing to do,” the complaint states. Talks with the parties fell apart soon afterwards, it adds. It should be pointed out that neither Brustein nor Ciardi and Gray are producers on Ballers.
The plaintiffs, who don’t seem to have any significant industry credits of their own, are represented by Kenchi Agu of Torrance, California.
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