J-Lo gave the warning a long time ago, “don’t be fooled by the rocks that I got. I’m still Jenny from the block.” Everyone heard but Sheri Gilbert. Gilbert sued J-Lo claiming copyright infringement on an idea she had for Monster-in-law. The court essentially said, “are you kidding us? You waste our time on this merit-less lawsuit??? PAY $900,000! Haven’t we said “ideas” are NOT protected? What part of that don’t you understand?” What a “monster” outcome that will make it hard for Ms. Gilbert to forget.
“Remember the woman who sued Warner Bros., actresses Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda over the 2005 film Monster-in-Law?
The woman, Sheri Gilbert, has been ordered to pay them nearly a million dollars for bringing a meritless lawsuit.
As a refresher, Gilbert claimed there was something strangely familiar about the grating mother-in-law portrayed in the film. She felt like she could predict what was going to happen from one scene to the next in the film. And she believed the script had similarities to the one she wrote about her own mother-in-law problems. She felt entitled to a piece of the $155 million the film made in worldwide box office.
When the lawsuit was first filed, we had lots of fun making fun of it. Gilbert thinks she’s the first to experience an annoying mother-in-law? Gilbert thinks there’s something surprising about a Hollywood comedy that felt recycled?”
But sadly, most people don’t understand the difference between ideas and expression — and what copyright law really protects. And so, a lot of “idea theft” lawsuits are filed against Hollywood studios.
UDUAK LAW FIRM ANALYSIS
It would be interesting to see the court’s rationale and analysis. But quick and clear lay term distinction people on idea vs. expression. Ideas means it is in your head. Nothing has been done to make it a reality. I had an idea about creating a fashion publication focused on Africans but targeted to Americans and Europeans, Ladybrille Magazine. If I sat on it and did nothing and someone else had the same idea and made it what it is today, I can’t sue them claiming they “stole” my idea. Even if I told them about my idea but did nothing, if they made money off my idea by doing something then really, under the law, too bad so sad. From a policy perspective, those who make things happen should be rewarded. Those who have ideas and do nothing don’t get to scream “thief!” when someone else takes an idea and makes a reality. Of course we can debate about this.
Expressions is me doing something about the idea in my head. In copyright lingo the idea I created must be “fixed in a tangible medium of expression,” bottom line.
WSJ has the full story.
FASHIONENTLAW blog, authored by Ms. Uduak, was first established in 2010. It is now incorporated, in 2021, as part of the FASHIONENTLAW LAW FIRM blog. The blog is for informational purposes only and provides legal commentary and analysis on the intersection of mainstream America pop culture and the law. It also provides updates on Ms. Uduak’s speaking engagements and press activities. For inquiries on topics covered please email (firstname.lastname@example.org).