Tyler Perry Sued by Woman Claiming he Plagiarized ‘Diary of a Mad Black Woman’ Script

November 13, 2008 at 1:55 am Leave a comment

tyler-perry5.jpgA jury was selected in Marshall’s federal court this week to hear a copyright infringement case against Tyler Perry of Atlanta, Ga. The playwright, actor and film director is probably best known for his comic female character, Madea.

Jurors have been instructed to return 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 2, to hear evidence before U.S. District Judge Leonard Davis.
Perry was present, under heavy security, for Tuesday’s jury selection process. Reports are that his appearance was deliberately kept secret.
The Marshall News Messenger was told of the matter Friday by a local resident who knew someone who was a part of the jury pool.
The lawsuit was filed May 21, 2007, on behalf of Donna West, who is described in the document as “residing within the state of Texas.”
Ms. West’s Dallas attorneys claim Perry’s film, “Diary of a Mad Black Woman” was “copied largely from plaintiff’s copyrighted script.”
Ms. West is suing Perry individually and doing business as Tyler Perry Company, Tyler Perry Company Inc. and Lions Gate Entertainment Inc.
Perry’s attorneys, of Longview and Los Angeles, have filed answers to the lawsuit, denying all allegations of copyright infringement.
The answers say “the materials claimed … to have been copied from plaintiff’s work are not protected by copyright law because they are ideas, facts, conventions or cliches of story-telling, script-writing or movie-making.”
Furthermore, Perry’s attorneys say “defendants were not aware and had no reason to believe that their acts constituted an infringement of copyright” because “defendants’ motion picture was created independently of plaintiff’s allegedly copyrighted script.”
The answers also claim Ms. West has no recourse under the Copyright Act because of her “failure to register her work prior to the alleged infringement.”
Lions Gate Entertainment “participated in funding, releasing and distributing the film” in February 2005, Ms. West’s complaint says.
It also states Ms. West “created an original script” entitled “Fantasy of a Black Woman” in November 1990 and “performed the script in a play in Dallas” in July 1991.
She obtained a copyright certificate for her musical on March 20, 2006.
Ms. West is asking the jury to grant her pay for “actual damages, plus the amount of defendants’ profits attributable to the infringement.”
She is also seeking “prejudgement and post judgement interest” and “reasonable attorney fees and costs of court.”
The lawsuit also asks that the defendants ” be enjoined during this action and permanently …. from publishing, selling, marketing, or otherwise disposing of any copies of the infringing material.”
Ms. West’s attorney are also asking the court to have Perry “deliver to be impounded” and “for destruction all infringing copies and all plates, molds, electronic files and other matter for making infringing copies.”
Ms. West is represented by Aubrey “Nick” Pittman of The Pittman Law Firm, and Joe Kendall, Willie Briscoe and Hamilton Lindley of Provost Umphrey Law Firm, both of Dallas.
Perry and his companies are represented by Rickey L. Faulkner of Longview and Louis P. Petrich of Leopold, Petrich & Smith of Los Angeles.
“Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” stars Kimberly Elise, Shemar Moore, Cicely Tyson, Steve Harris, and Perry, who plays Madea in the film.
A Web site describes the movie as “a mix of comedy and drama,” based on Perry’s “immensely popular” play by the same name.
It tells of an Atlanta woman’s heartbreak when her husband of 18 years announces he wants a divorce and literally throws her out of their mansion to make room for the other woman.
The star “finds that the tragic events of her life soon become comic, especially with the guidance and help \– mostly unsolicited \– of her pot-smoking, gun-toting, and much beloved, grandmother figure, Madea,” the Web site says.
Perry, 39, began his writing career in 1992 by keeping a journal, “in part to cope with the repercussion of abuse,” his Web site says.
He developed characters to voice different ideas in the journal, with this work eventually becoming the musical, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” about adult survivors of child abuse, the site says.
“Tyler Perry’s House of Payne,” which follows a working-class, African-American household of three family generations, ran briefly on television in the spring of 2006.
He also stars in “The Tyler Perry Show.”
In February 2008 Perry announced he would soon be creating a “kid friendly” animated TV show featuring Madea, the Web site says.
Source: Marshall News Messenger

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November 2008

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