Judge tosses plagiarism case against Fox and its hit sitcom, 'New Girl'
Fox got a late Christmas gift as a federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit alleging the network’s hit comedy, New Girl, was plagiarized from another script with a similar concept.
The Hollywood Reporter’s THR, Esq. blog reported Monday that U.S. District Judge Stephen Wilson of Los Angeles has granted Fox’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the copyright infringement claims brought by two screenwriters were insufficient for proceeding to trial.
Writers Stephanie Counts and Shari Gold had originally filed suit in January 2014, arguing that the creators of the Zooey Deschanel vehicle New Girl had copied from their script, Square One, which also involves a woman that moves in with three male roommates. Counts and Gold argued that New Girl showrunners had access to the Square One script when they were creating the show for Fox because they were all represented by the William Morris Endeavor Agency and the Square One script had been uploaded to the agency’s database. New Girl creator Elizabeth Merriweather denied having read Square One, saying that her script had been inspired by Three’s Company and British comedy The Green Wing.
Wilson tossed aside Counts’s and Gold’s access claim and held that a stronger, more specific link was needed in order to proceed to trial. “That plaintiffs may have interacted with a few agents at WME is insufficient to show that other agents had a reasonable opportunity to access Square One,” Wilson wrote in his opinion (PDF).
Wilson also found that the two scripts were not carbon copies of one another. “Both Square One and New Girl have leading female characters in their 20s/30s,” the judge writes. “Plaintiffs argue that both protagonists are optimistic, sexually inexperienced, feminine, have a hard time fitting in, attempt to cook and be domestic for their roommates, and use outdated phrases. As the court stated above, most of these similarities are ordinary and cannot be afforded protection. Moreover, while Jess [the protagonist in New Girl] is overtly quirky, awkward and goofy in her personality, Greer [the main character of Square One] does not possess similarly distinctive qualities.”