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NOV
29
2 YEARS

Universal Sues Over 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Porn Adaptation

After snapping up film rights for $5 million, Universal is upset over a porn movie it says is a "rip-off, plain and simple."

Fifty Shades of Grey Cover - P 2012

The copyright owner of the mega-selling book, Fifty Shades of Grey, and Universal Studios, which owns movie rights, aren't happy with a porn film titled Fifty Shades of Grey: A XXX Adaptation.

The EL James novel published in 2011, followed by a pair of sequels, tells the steamy tale of a literature student who meets a young billionaire entrepreneur. The two characters can't resist each other. Erotic passions ensue. There's even some bondage.

A natural porn film?

Smash Pictures and director James Lane (aka Jim Powers) evidently thought so. But the makers of Fifty Shades of Grey: A XXX Adaptation now are being taken to court over what the plaintiffs call a "willful attempt to capitalize on the reputation of the book."

Universal and its Focus Features division spent $5 million in March to acquire rights to make Fifty Shades of Grey movies. Last month, it was announced that the writer of the authorized film version is Kelly Marcel, who somewhat coincidentally knows a thing or two about rights issues, having previously written Saving Mr. Banks, which detailed Walt Disney’s 20-year pursuit of the film rights to author P.L. Travers’ novel Mary Poppins.

A porn parody of Fifty Shades isn't too surprising. Last summer, L.A. Weekly reviewed the potential porn film of the book franchise, saying, "While parodies are the only way adult film studios can make any money these days, making a Fifty Shades version is truly the only way to put the three erotic novels on film in their BDSM glory without MPAA censorship and film industry finger-wagging."

Want to bet?

In that same article, Smash exec Stuart Wall gave the publication a quote, saying, "Since they are going to make a mainstream [film] of the books too, dabbling in the adult world, we're choosing to go with a XXX adaption which will stay very true to the book and its S&M-themed romance."

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In the new lawsuit, Fifty Shades Ltd. and Universal point to that quote as proof of the defendants' intentions to usurp copyright and trademark and confuse the source of origin.

"By lifting exact dialogue, characters, events, story and style from the Fifty Shades trilogy, Smash Pictures ensured that the first XXX adaptation was, in fact, as close as possible to the original works," says the lawsuit, filed in federal court in California.

The plaintiffs appear to have screened the movie.

"Beginning with the first XXX adaptation's opening scene and continuing throughout the next 2½ hours of the film, Smash Pictures copies without reservation from the unique expressive elements of the Fifty Shades trilogy, progressing through the events of Fifty Shades of Grey and into the second book, Fifty Shades Darker," the complaint continues. "The first XXX adaptation is not a parody, and it does not comment on, criticize or ridicule the originals. It is a rip-off, plain and simple."

Also targeted in the lawsuit are the distributors including Luv Moves, which is alleged to have packaged the DVD with sex toys in a kit called "Fifty Shades of Pleasure: Play Kit & Movie."

Porn films make lovable litigation. This hot lawsuit follows a cold one in September when Ben & Jerry's sued the makers of a series of porn films including Hairy Garcia, Boston Cream Thigh and Peanut Butter D-Cups that allegedly infringe the trademarks on ice cream flavors.

In the new lawsuit, Universal and Fifty Shades Ltd., represented by Andrew Thomas at Jenner & Block, are asking for an injunction and further monetary damages.

Read the full complaint.

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner