LOS ANGELES—Universal City Pictures, which reportedly spent $5 million for the movie rights to E.L. James' 50 Shades of Grey, has filed a lawsuit in federal court against three California companies and three individuals it says are responsible for "unauthorized films and sex toys based on the blockbuster trilogy" that were allegedly created "in a willful attempt to capitalize on the reputation of the book," Courthouse News reported this morning.
Universal is joined in the lawsuit by 50 Shades Ltd., which is owned by James, who is not named as an individual plaintiff. The film they take issue with is Smash Pictures' Fifty Shades of Grey: a XXX Adaptation, but the complaint notes that the studio also has "two more productions in the works."
Company defendants include Chatsworth, California-based Smash, Right Ascension Inc. dba Adult DVD Empire and Luv Moves, which, according to The Hollywood Reporter, "is alleged to have packaged the DVD with sex toys in a kit called 'Fifty Shades of Pleasure: Play Kit & Movie.'"
Individual defendants include Smash owner Daniel Quinn, Smash VP Stuart Wall and "James Lane aka Jim Powers, of Northridge, the alleged 'writer and director of the XXX adaptations.'"
"By lifting exact dialogue, characters, events, story, and style from the Fifty Shades trilogy," the 31-page complaint states, "Smash Pictures ensured that the first XXX adaptation was, in fact, as close as possible to the original works.
"Beginning with the first XXX Adaptation's opening scene and continuing throughout the next 2½ hours of the film," it continues, "Smash Pictures copies without reservation from the unique expressive elements of the Fifty Shades trilogy, progressing through the events of Fifty Shades of Grey and into the second book, Fifty Shades Darker. The first XXX adaptation is not a parody, and it does not comment on, criticize, or ridicule the originals. It is a rip-off, plain and simple."
THR also notes that the complaint references a June 2012 quote given to the LA Weekly by Wall for a June 2012 article as proof of the plaintiffs' contention that the defendants intended to "usurp copyright and trademark and confuse source of origin."
"While parodies are the only way adult film studios can make any money these days," Wall told the Weekly, "making a Fifty Shades version is truly the only way to put the three erotic novels on film in their BDSM glory without MPAA censorship and film industry finger-wagging."
According to Courthouse News, "Fifty Shades and Universal seek an injunction, actual damages and punitive damages for copyright infringement, false designation of origin, false advertising, trademark dilution, business law violations and unfair competition."
When contacted, Wall told AVN he had "no comment" at the moment.
The complaint is available here.