Celebrities Don’t Have to Pay You for Movie Ideas You Tweet at Them, Judge Rules

Creed
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Tweeting movie ideas at celebrities remains a bad way to launch a writing career, according to a recent ruling from a federal judge.

Judge Ronald S.W. Lew dismissed a lawsuit brought by Jarrett Alexander, a “largely unknown” actor from New Jersey, against Sylvester Stallone, director Ryan Coogler, MGM Studios and others. Alexander filed suit in 2016, alleging that he came up with the idea for the movie “Creed” — the seventh installment in the “Rocky” series. He said he wrote a screenplay and created a pitch reel to promote the idea between 2008 and 2011, and created a website in 2012, well before “Creed” went into development.

Alexander alleged that Sylvester Stallone was aware of his efforts because he and his friends tweeted a link to the website to him.

They also tweeted the idea to Dwayne Johnson and Carl Weathers, and sent the screenplay to several people in Hollywood.

Lew, however, ruled on Aug. 14 that this was insufficient to show that Stallone or anyone else reviewed the website.

“It strains reason that Defendants ‘accepted’ Plaintiff’s offer to enter a contract or understood the conditions under which he tendered the Creed Idea from a unilateral tweet and from Plaintiff disseminating his Creed Idea on the Internet,” Lew wrote. “The Court will not allow a breach of implied contract claim to proceed on (1) tweets to a popular celebrity social media account which were never responded to; and (2) the fact that Defendants are generally in the same industry as unnamed individuals to whom (Alexander) sent the Screenplay.”

Lew also noted that California law does not generally permit legal claims for theft of an idea. He quoted a California Supreme Court case, Desny v Wilder (1956), in which the court refused to fault Paramount Pictures for appropriating an idea for a movie about a boy trapped in a cave. The court held, “[t]he idea man who blurts out his idea without having first made his bargain has no one but himself to blame for the loss of his bargaining power. The law will not in any event, from demands stated subsequent to the unconditioned disclosure of an abstract idea, imply a promise to pay for the idea, for its use, or for its previous disclosure.”

Attorney Robert Rotstein, representing the defendants, also argued that the suit should be dismissed because Alexander’s screenplay and promotional video infringed on the “Rocky” copyrights by using characters and even footage without permission.

Rotstein is now seeking to recoup attorneys’ fees and costs from Alexander.

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  1. DAVID R. GINSBURG says:

    Congratulations to Mr. Rotstein on his astute legal victory.

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