Judge dismisses copyright claim vs. ‘Expendables’

Ruling cites 'stock devices' of genre as crux of similarities

A federal judge has rejected a marketing executive’s claim that Sylvester Stallone copied his screenplay in writing the action movie “The Expendables.”

U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, reaffirming an order he issued in June, dismissed Marcus Webb’s claim of copyright infringement, finding that many of the “striking similarities” between “The Expendables” and Webb’s script were actually “simple stock devices that are standard in action movies.”

Webb, who works for Walker Digital as a writer of corporate speeches and promotional videos, wrote a script titled “The Cordoba Caper” that featured a team of American mercenaries who are hired by a billionaire to stop a genocide and end up rescuing a young woman, Rakoff noted.

Stallone admitted that he used a script, “Barrow,” from screenwriter David Callahan, as a “starting point” for his screenplay, but that he never saw the script for “The Cordoba Caper.” Callahan and Stallone shared screenplay credit.

Webb submitted his script to eight screenwriting competitions, but Rakoff said that “it would require almost endless speculation to explain how Webb’s submission of ‘Corboda’ to amateur screenplay competitions ended up in front of Stallone.”

Although there were similarities in both screenplays, Rakoff said Webb failed to show that there was not “any reasonable possibility of independent creation.” Both works featured an identical name of a Latin American dictator, General Garza. “But, as defendants point out, Garza is a common Hispanic surname,” Rakoff wrote.

Also named in Webb’s suit were Lionsgate, Nu Image and other production entities. Callahan was also a defendant but dismissed from the case in April.

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