Hollywood Docket: Faulkner Estate Settles; Sandler Beats 'Just Go With It' Suit; 'Superman' Appeal

A roundup of entertainment law news including settlements involving Todd McFarlane and "American Digger."
Tracy Bennett/Columbia Pictures
"Just Go With It"

The owners of the rights to the literary works of the late William Faulkner have settled a lawsuit with The Washington Post and Northrop Grumman over a Faulkner quote that was used in a full-page Independence Day advertisement.

The parties entered a stipulated agreement to drop the lawsuit earlier this week, which a Mississippi judge has now accepted.

The suit was one of two filed in late October. The other is a copyright and trademark action against Sony Pictures Classics over a quote from one of Faulkner's works in Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Sony has yet to reply in court to those claims.

In the lawsuit against Northrop Grumman, it was alleged that part of a 1956 Harper's Magazine essay on freedom was appropriated — specifically, the quote, "We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it."

The quote was accompanied by a large photo of an American flag, Northrop's corporate logo and more text. The military contractor also was charged with putting the advertisement on its website along with the notation, "(c) 2011 Northrop Grumman Corporation."

Lee Caplin, a Hollywood producer (Ali) who manages Faulkner’s literary estate, says that details of the settlement are confidential.

In other entertainment law news:

  • Sony Pictures and Adam Sandler's Happy Madison production company have prevailed in a suit brought by a woman who claims her script was stolen to make the 2011 Sandler-Jennifer Aniston romantic-comedy Just Go With It. Marina Bar sued in January alleging her son dropped off a copy of a short script called Georgie at Happy Madison and the company used it without consent. But U.S. District Court Judge George Wu ruled Thursday that the two works are not substantially similar. "We are very pleased with the court’s decision in this case," a Sony rep tells THR.  
  • Superman litigation update: A California judge has made final an October decision determining that a 1992 agreement with Jean Peavy, the sister of Man of Steel co-creator Joe Shuster, precludes the estate's attempt to terminate DC Comics' copyright grant. This week, Marc Toberoff appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit. According to the court papers, DC Comics will also be making a motion to recover court fees and legal costs.
  • Spawn creator Todd McFarlane has come to an agreement that ends a lawsuit he brought against ex-employee Al Simmons, who wrote a book that suggested that he was the inspiration behind the the popular Spawn character. In the lawsuit, McFarlane charged Simmons with violating the terms of his employment pact and breaching his duty of loyalty. Terms of any settlement aren't known.
  • In another dispute coming to an end, a lawsuit brought by the publisher of American Digger Magazine against Viacom over the Spike TV show American Digger has been dropped. The premise of the lawsuit was a trademark violation, but Viacom said that it had a valid license to use the title.
  • Godfather fans will appreciate this one: A New York appeals court has revived a defamation claim brought by a local businessman involved in politics who was accused on a blog of being the one to put a severed horse head in a swimming pool. The appeals court described the scene as "cinematic" and in a footnote, nodded to the famous scene in Mario Puzo's novel and Francis Ford Coppola's film.