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HBO, Mark Wahlberg Seek Dismissal of ‘Ballers’ Copyright Lawsuit

HBO, Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson and Stephen Levinson are challenging a claim that the series “Ballers” is a ripoff of a proposed series called “Off Season.”

Writers Everette Silas and Sherri Littleton claim that they had a deal to sell their show to producers Mark Ciardi and Gordon Gray, who through their Mayhem Pictures have produced such sports-related movies as “The Game Plan” starring Johnson and “Invincible” starring Wahlberg.

The two writers also claimed in their lawsuit that Ciardi and Gray gave a copy of a trailer, treatment and screenplay to Johnson and Wahlberg, with an eye for them in the lead roles. But according to their suit, Silas and Littleton refused to sign an agreement because it required them to remove their names from the “Created By” credit, which they refused to do. Negotiations then ended.

They say damages may exceed at least $200 million.

But in motion to dismiss filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, HBO and the other defendants say that the two projects, “are so radically different that there can be no reasonable finding of substantial similarity as a matter of law.”

“The court need do nothing more than review the works themselves to conclude that plaintiffs’ complaint should be dismissed,” the defendants said in their motion.

They point out that “Off Season” “is an unremittingly dark drama primarily set within a nightclub – a den of iniquity where drugs and prostitutes are procured for the owner (a professional football player) and patrons alike; dirty police officers are handcuffed, beaten and bribed; pornography is filmed; and gunshots and violence are commonplace. Ballers, by contrast, is a sundrenched comedy about the careers, financial struggles and relationships of current and former professional football players.”

The HBO series “Ballers,’ which debuted in June, stars Johnson in the lead role. He also is executive producer along with Wahlberg and Levinson, who also was credited as the creator.

Deadline first reported on the motion to dismiss.

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