Sayles loses bid to dismiss copywright suit

A U.S. District Court judge has rejected helmer John Sayles’ attempt to dismiss a copyright infringement suit against him for the film “Passion Fish.” The ruling Friday means Sayles will have to face the copyright suit in Virginia, where plaintiff Ginny Towler resides.

In the suit, Towler contends that Sayles and his two corporations — Atchafalaya Film and Esperanza Inc. — along with Miramax Film Corp. and SCS Communications “comprehensively and non-literally” copied her screenplay “Crossed Wires, or Bobbie and Wendy Were Neighbors” and turned it into “Passion Fish.”

2 Oscars

The film garnered two Oscar nominations, for Sayles’ screenplay and Mary McDonnell’s lead performance.

Sayles, through the Washington law firm of Ross, Dixon & Masback, filed the motion to dismiss on jurisdictional grounds, but District Judge Claude Hilton rejected the claim because the film had been distributed in theaters and video stores throughout Virginia.

Sayles and his attorneys could not be reached for comment.

Miramax spokeswoman Julie Polkes said she was not aware the company had been named in the suit, but added, “John Sayles is one of the most original artists around and the company is 100% supportive of him.”

Towler, a Justice Dept. lawyer, said “Crossed Wires” was her first script. The piece won the ’92 Writers Guild of America/East Foundation Screenwriting fellowship.

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