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Attorneys for Angelina Jolie and Croatian author James Braddock have agreed to a 15-day trial beginning on January 29, 2014 in their dispute over whether the actress ripped off a 2007 book for her directorial debut, In the Land of Blood and Honey.
That is, if the case gets that far.
Before any trial happens, Jolie’s attorneys say they will be making a summary judgment motion with the hope that Judge Dolly Gee will see that Braddock can’t establish the required elements of access or substantial similarity to support a copyright infringement claim. Depending on how far this case goes, the dispute could get complicated thanks to Jolie’s A-list status and the fact that the discovery process will happen both in the U.S. and in Europe.
Last December, Braddock sued Jolie, producer GK Films and distributor FilmDistrict weeks before In the Land of Blood and Honey hit theaters. The original complaint was filed in Illinois, but Braddock wasn’t successful in showing why a federal court there had jurisdiction over the matter, so it was moved to California.
According to the original complaint, Braddock authored a book entitled The Soul Shattering. He says that on his travels to Sarajevo to promote his work and create awareness for Bosnian war victims, he met Edin Sarkic and allegedly discussed with him the possibility of creating a film adaptation.
Later, Sarkic became a producer on Jolie’s film and has been credited with helping Jolie attain the necessary permits to film in Sarajevo.
Jolie disputes that her film is based on Braddock’s book, saying the idea came from working as a UN ambassador. Her attorneys say that she’ll be able to show Blood and Honey was independently created, and that any alleged similarities were purely coincidental or not actionable.
But how that gets to that point could be intriguing.
According to a court document filed late last week in the case, Jolie’s lawyer Harrison Dossick says, “The Parties recognize that discovery in this case will extend to information and witnesses located in Eastern Europe and elsewhere outside the United States, and therefore will require substantial planning, will necessitate service of process pursuant to the Hague Convention, and will be very costly and time consuming.”
Dossick, a partner at Reed Smith, highlights his discovery requests, which include other prior similar books as well as Braddock’s book, historical facts and actual events upon which Braddock’s book is based and Braddock’s research. In other words, a real historical investigation of the Bosnian Civil War.
Braddock’s attorney Rasheed McWilliams at Adli Law Group has his own discovery demands — documents and depositions of Jolie and the other defendants, of course, but also “a forensic analysis of Defendants’ computer accounting and email systems.”
Dossick objects to that request, arguing there’s no good cause to support such “extraordinary, intrusive discovery measures.”
The international scope of this litigation creates potential disorder in other ways.
Braddock demands access to sensitive business, financial and personal documents from the defendants. This likely includes revenues for the movie as well as compensation records. The request isn’t unusual, nor is a general agreement among the parties to treat such information as confidential. But what makes things tricky is what might happen should there be any leaks.
“With regard to Ms. Jolie, it is believed Plaintiff will seek highly confidential, non-public, private facts and personal information,” says Dossick in a statement to the judge. “Defendants’ concerns are further heightened in this case because Plaintiff — who resides in Croatia and thus, as a practical matter, is beyond the contempt powers of this Court — already has made disparaging and threatening comments about Defendants on his website and elsewhere on the Internet.”
Jolie’s attorney wants a strict confidentiality and protective order in the case.
Both sides say they haven’t engaged in any settlement discussions as of yet. In fact, the lawsuit might expand before it goes away. Braddock’s lawyer says he anticipates the need to add claims of unfair competition and false advertising. Jolie’s lawyer believes there’s no grounds to permit this.
E-mail: email@example.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner
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