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Love Happens, Jennifer Aniston

Kimberley French/ Universal Studios

Can anyone really stop the mighty Jennifer Aniston from releasing her new movie on time?
—Joku

The Aniston may wield all sorts of clout in this country—but it's a studio, not a star, that usually dictates when you get to see a film.

And that includes Love Happens, the Aniston-Aaron Eckhart flick that Universal is trying to release, despite an 11th-hour lawsuit from two writers who say the studio stole their script. The writers want a federal judge to halt the release or just, you know, maybe give them $100 million.

If that demand sounds like a joke, wait till you hear what my lawyer friends are saying about the rest of the suit...

See, two writers, Greg Crowder and Tony Freitas, say that in 2006, they presented Universal with an idea for a dark picture called Truth, but the studio wanted a rewrite. The writers refused, and, according to the suit, the studio revamped the idea into a rom-com of sorts: Love Happens.

But as one extremely experienced entertainment lawyer puts it to me, the writers "don't stand a snowball's chance in hell"—even if the Love Happens script is a little bit similar to the writers's "stolen" idea. That may sound brutal, but unless the two scripts are way, way similar, it's also legal. Ideas can't be copyrighted, only specific expressions of ideas.

Oddly, the two guys are asking for profits that haven't even been earned yet, and—if they hold up the movie release—may never be earned. Yet another weakness in the lawsuit, my lawyer friend says: It was filed just days before the film's debut this Friday; judges usually don't like that, especially when, according to this suit, the writers knew about Universal's alleged thieving a whole month ago.

That isn't to say that some films haven't spurred successful copyright suits. In 1990, writer and humorist Art Buchwald pummeled Paramount in court after it released Eddie Murphy's Coming to America without compensating Buchwald; the story was actually Buchwald's idea.

And still other movie releases have been threatened by the mighty hand of the law.

The graphic novel turned movie Watchmen almost suffered a delay in its March release date because the Fox studio claimed some rights over the Warner Bros. film. The two heavyweights settled in plenty of time for the studio to release the film...and for the rest of us to forget about it.

________

Catch Jen on Chelsea Lately, this Thursday at 11 p.m.