“Ballers” Lawsuit Tossed
Dwayne Johnson, Mark Wahlberg, and HBO scored a major touchdown in Los Angeles courtroom on Monday when a judge tossed a $200 million copyright lawsuit that accused them of stealing the concept of their hit show, “Ballers.”
Last December, writers Everette Silas and Sherri Littleton filed the suit in federal court “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.”
“The themes in the two concepts are widely different,” said Judge George Wu at a Monday morning hearing in downtown L.A after granting a motion from the premium cabler and the other defendants to dismiss the claims — though not without a bit of fun at Ballers expense.
Showing the lawsuit was no laughing matter for HBO, the cabler’s SVP and Chief Counsel, Litigation Stephanie Abutyn flew in from NYC to attend this morning’s hearing along with local legal reps from all parties.
The plaintiffs first filed their $200 million copyright infringement complaint December 17, alleging that “stories, character traits, scenes, and incidents portrayed in the two works, Ballers and Off Season, are, in many respects, virtually identical and strikingly similar.” They followed with an amended complaint in mid-March, and on April 15, the premium cabler, its star and executive producers tossed back a motion to have the whole thing dismissed.
In a tentative ruling released in the court before the hearing and finalized after arguments from the lawyers involved, the judge noted that the similarities between Ballers and Off Season did not rise to the standard of copyright infringement but merely had general expressions that you might find in any project where football players were a primary element. Additionally, Wu made a point of noting that the plaintiff’s claims of similarities did not hold up under examination and were, in fact, often taken out of context.
Are you watching the new season of “Ballers?”