Jordan-Benel v. Universal City Studios, Inc.

Defendant movie studio’s Anti-SLAPP motion was properly denied as plaintiff’s implied-in-fact contract claim was based on the unprotected act of not paying him for his story idea, not on the protected act of producing the film based on his idea.  The district court correctly denied defendant’s Anti-SLAPP motion to strike in this case in which plaintiff claimed that defendant had stolen his screen play idea which it then used a successful series of motion pictures without paying plaintiff for the use of his idea.  To determine whether the Anti-SLAPP applies, the court must first identify the precise act that constitutes the misconduct on which the plaintiff’s claim is based.  Here, plaintiff alleged an implied-in-fact contract to compensate him for his screen play idea, a contract that defendant breached by using the idea and then not paying plaintiff for it.  Since the implied agreement to pay and its breach were what distinguished this claim from a copyright infringement claim, the key element of wrongdoing was non-payment rather than unauthorized use of the idea.  Payment or nonpayment for an idea is not protected activity under the Anti-SLAPP statute.  So the Anti-SLAPP motion was correctly denied.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Pregerson, J.); June 20, 2017; 2017 WL 2637350 

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