Tyler Perry and Lionsgate have convinced a New York federal judge to dismiss a copyright infringement lawsuit against them.
Author Terri Donald claimed that the plot of Perry’s film, Good Deeds, was taken from her 2007 novel, Bad Apples Can Be Good Fruit. She filed a lawsuit against Perry and Lionsgate in November 2012, claiming that she sent Perry a copy of the novel before production on the film began. She asked for $225,000 in damages, as a well as a writing credit.
Donald’s novel, written under the pseudonym TLO Red’ness, centers on a “woman’s struggle to free herself from the past in order to move forward in the future with the man she loves.” Perry’s film focuses on the relationship between businessman Wesley Deeds (Perry) and struggling single mother Lindsey (Thandie Newton), who works on the cleaning crew in his office building.
According to Perry and Lionsgate’s attorney Tom Ferber, US District Court Judge William Pauley III stressed that copyright law only protects expression and not ideas. The judge said that the only similarity between Donald’s novel and Perry’s film is that they both centered on the relationship between a wealthy black man and a struggling woman.
Ferber said that, although most plaintiffs who sue for idea theft eventually fail in court, it doesn’t discourage others from doing the same.
“If anything, I see more plaintiffs crawling out of the woodwork than 10, 20 years ago,” he said. “Everyone thinks that if they have an idea and there is something else like it, it must be copyright infringement.”
Tyler Perry is also being sued by an Indiana man who claims the director/actor/producer stole the idea for his film Temptation: Confessions of a Marriage Counselor from his screenplay Lovers Kill. Perry’s film is based on his 2008 stage play The Marriage Counselor, but writer William James said he passed a copy of his script along hoping it would get to Perry’s desk. He is seeking unspecified damages, including the credit, “Based on the Novel Lovers Kill by William James.” That case has not gone to court yet.