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Miami, FL Law Blog for Entertainment Law, Business Law, and Public Interest

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Universal Studios sues over pornographic '50 Shades of Grey' 'parody'

by Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

We assume that most Miami residents are pretty comfortable with parodies, satires and spoofs. After all, the U.S. has a strong tradition of being reluctant to limit speech, and most adults are sophisticated enough to tell when something is a joke.

But does that feeling extend to pornography?

Believe it or not, that is a relevant question, since Universal Studios recently filed an entertainment lawsuit against pornographic film studio over that studio's planned "50 Shades of Gray" pornographic parody.

Universal owns the exclusive rights to turn E.L. James' blockbuster novels, which detail the erotic relationship between an innocent young woman and an emotionally distant billionaire, into films. It claims that Smash Pictures stole dialogue, characters and plot developments directly from "50 Shades of Grey."

Universal has argued that Smash Pictures' "parody" isn't a parody at all, but is rather just a rip-off. It is asking for monetary damages and an injunction, which would prohibit Smash Pictures from further sales or distributions.

Now, realizing that you have may not seen Smash Pictures' "parody," what do you think? Does it seem to you that a pornographic riff on a popular novel would inherently be a parody? Or do you agree with Universal that this concept can never rise above being a knockoff.

Disputes like this are not all that uncommon. This autumn, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's also sued over a pornographic parody because the company objected to the use of names that were only slightly altered (for lewdly humorous effect, of course) from the titles of its ice cream flavors.

Source: The New York Post, "Universal sues porn company over XXX '50 Shades of Grey' adaptation," Nov. 30, 2012


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