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Showtime is asking a New York federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit from a performance coach who claims her book inspired one of the lead characters on Billions, arguing the fictional woman and real-life author have next to nothing in common.
Denise Shull in January sued Showtime and series creators Andrew Ross Sorkin, Brian Koppelman and David Levien, claiming actress Maggie Siff’s character Wendy Rhoades is based on Shull’s book called Market Mind Games: A Radical Psychology of Investing, Trading, and Risk. Shull says Sorkin in 2015 asked her to help develop the character, but she was never paid.
The defendants, which also include CBS and its chief creative officer David Nevins, on Friday moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the series and Shull’s book are “strikingly dissimilar.”
“From these two dramatically different works, Plaintiffs attempt to construct a copyright claim based only on a broad unprotectible idea — a female hedge fund performance coach counseling clients about their emotions,” writes attorney Elizabeth McNamara in the filing, which is posted in full below. Specifically, she argues, much of Rhoades’ storyline centers on her sex life and the fact that she’s a dominatrix, and Shull’s romantic life isn’t mentioned at all in the book.
McNamara further argues that six of Shull’s other claims are preempted by the Copyright Act, and her right of publicity claim fails because New York law only prohibits the unauthorized use of a person’s “name, portrait, picture or voice” in advertising.
“Billions does not use any such attributes of Shull’s,” writes McNamara. “And, even if they had, Billions is a fully protected entertainment series and, by any measure, is not ‘advertising’ or ‘trade’ as those terms have been narrowly defined.”
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