On November 19, 2018, U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick in the Northern District of California dismissed Random House in a suit that claimed the author of the bestselling novel “The Girls” copied it from her ex-boyfriend’s screenplay, “All Sea,” using secretly installed spyware on this computer.
Judge Orrick tossed claims of intermediate copying, conversion, civil theft and unjust enrichment against Penguin Random House LLC and author Emma Cline (“Cline”) brought by her ex-boyfriend Chaz Reetz-Laiolo (“Laiolo”), but gave Laiolo permission to amend allegations that Cline violated the Stored Communications Act, and allowed some of Cline’s counterclaims to move forward. Judge Orrick also found that “The Girls” does not infringe Reetz-Laiolo’s screenplay “All Sea,” which he singles out in his allegations, because there are “few objective similarities, and no substantial ones.” Random House has been dismissed entirely.
Cline’s book, “The Girls,” is a critically acclaimed novel that follows a girl in California in the 1960s who becomes enchanted with women who are followers of a Charles Manson-type figure.
According to Laiolo’s suit, Cline sold Laiolo a laptop that included highly personal private information, including sexual photographs, her diaries and draft writings, but which also included a spyware program. Lailo claims Cline stole his work by accessing the material on the laptop using the spyware, and alleges she monitored private emails for years and hacked into his bank account to review transactions.
Cline responded by saying Laiolo’s suit was “extortion by an abusive ex-boyfriend hoping for a financial windfall,” and claims Laiolo sent her a draft complaint that threatened to publicize personal details about her life and described her as an “escort.”
Judge Orrick found that Laiolo had failed to plead facts that plausibly demonstrated that Cline had access to the version of “All Sea” that he alleges Cline copied:
“Reetz-Laiolo asserts, without factual support, that Cline illegally downloaded drafts dated June 17, 2013 and December 26, 2013…Yet the fourth amended complaint also pleads that Cline had lost access to Reetz-Laiolo’s email accounts by October 21, 2012 and sold him the computer with the Refog software in January 2013…Reetz-Laiolo’s assertions — that it’s reasonable to infer that Cline had access to the draft because she looked up a stronger spyware tool before she sold him the computer — does not save his infringement claims because he didn’t plead that she actually downloaded or used the tool, nor did he plead that his account was compromised.”
Reetz-Laiolo, Bernard and Kiesel are represented by Edward Normand, Amos Friedland, Nathan Holcomb and Kyle Roche of Boies Schiller Flexner LLP, Kevin Smith, Sapna Palla and Benjamin Diessel of Wiggin and Dana LLP, and Ethan A. Balogh of Coleman & Balogh LLP.
The cases are Reetz-Laiolo et al. v. Cline et al., case number 3:17-cv-06867, and Cline et al. v Reetz-Laiolo et al., case number 3:17-cv-06866, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
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