Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Monday, January 29, 2007

ex libris

-- ex libris -- brokeback vs the down low

All I can say is that I'm kind of impressed that both the Advocate and managed to report this piece of information without a shred of irony or richly deserved mockery.

Author files $250 million suit against makers of 'Brokeback Mountain' | News |

Janice Scott-Blanton, the author of My Husband Is on the Down Low and I Know About It, filed a $250 million lawsuit claiming copyright infringement against Universal and the studios that financed and distributed Brokeback Mountain, reports Scott-Blanton claims there are over 50 substantial similarities between her novel and the Academy Award-winning film. An early bar scene in the movie reminded Scott-Blanton of a scene from her novel, but she chalked it up to coincidence until further scenes, including the first sexual encounter between Jack and Ennis, reminded her of her novel.

In Brokeback Mountain Alma confronts her husband Ennis about his homosexual activity during Thanksgiving dinner and tells him she purposely wrote a note and put it on his fishing line for him but he never found it. According to Scott-Blanton, this scene is strikingly similar to a scene in her novel wherein her character Annette confronts her husband James about his homosexuality on their ninth anniversary. James tells her he wrote a confession in his journal purposely, knowing she was secretly reading it. Both scenes are set in a kitchen.

Scott-Blanton will argue in court that the film is strikingly similar to her novel in terms of characters, plot, themes, and sequence of events. (The Advocate)

See also: - Brokeback Mountain is On The Down Low and Author Janice Scott-Blanton Knows About It

To be sure, the piece appears to be a straight-ahead press release from the author's publicist or lawyer or some such, so there's probably not a lot of room to squeeze a bit of, "We think our client is nuts, but she's paying us, so we'll go ahead and do what she wants" irony into a press release.

Now, the proper thing to happen here would be for Annie Proulx to counter-sue (although, as she wasn't named in the original suit, technically, it wouldn't be a countersuit, but never mind). After all, given that her short story came first by some considerable amount of time ("Brokeback Mountain" was originally published in Close Range: Wyoming Stories in May 1999; My Husband is on the Down Low... seems to have first appeared in print in March 2005), Ms Proulx can allege that Ms. Scott-Blanton copied her work.

Of course, the other question is: didn't the lawyer do even rudimentary discovery before filing this case? Didn't anyone try to dissuade her or show her evidence?

I would imagine the case will be thrown out of court; I don't know if it's even possible to dismiss civil cases with prejudice, but this would certainly seem to fit, if that's possible.

Posted by iain at 01:16 PM in category ex libris