An aspiring scriptwriter has again accused the producers of the BET television series “The Game”–including Kelsey Grammer, series creator Mara Brock Akil, and a unit of CBS Broadcasting Inc.–of violating federal copyright law by using a script she had written for an episode of the show without compensation. See Colo’n v. Akil et al. , No. CV12 00861 (C.D. Cal. Jan. 30, 2012). The plaintiff filed the complaint in a California federal court just two months after the Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a similar case she had filed in a federal court in Indiana.
According to the complaint, Cassandra Colo’n penned a script titled “Pass Interference” in response to a request from her former agent–a defendant in this suit–who allegedly implied that the script would be sent to the producers of “The Game.” After giving the script to her agent, Colo’n viewed a February 2007 episode of “The Game” and concluded that the episode’s plot resembled her own. She claims that “the only way” for the stories to be so similar was for the producers to have had access to her script prior to the filming of the purportedly infringing episode.
The filing of this lawsuit comes on the heels of a significant victory for the defendants in a related copyright infringement suit in Indiana, where Colo’n had filed a similar complaint seeking $10 million in damages. In granting a motion to dismiss the complaint, the federal court ruled that the defendants were not subject to personal jurisdiction in Indiana. Despite the nationwide broadcast of the television series “The Game,” the court reasoned, the defendants lacked sufficient contacts with the state of Indiana to subject them to jurisdiction there. The court’s decision was later affirmed on appeal by the Seventh Circuit. See Colo’n v. Akil et al. , No. 4:08-cv-00026-TWP-DML (7th Cir. Nov. 23, 2011). The Seventh Circuit’s ruling is important for television producers and studios, as it stands for the notion that broadcasting a television series across the country is not enough, alone, to subject producers to personal jurisdiction in every state.