Initial proceedings for David Chase lawsuit begins today

by Paul William Tenny

The AP is reporting that jury selection for the lawsuit filed against The Sopranos creator David Chase was set to begin today. Apparently one of Chase's unofficial consultants is suing him over the success of the show, even though it's not really clear here what the legal claim is. Robert Baer, a prosecutor and former judge did some leg work well before the show went on the air to give Chase some background on the Jersey Mafia which inspired the show.

It seems like the work Baer did amounts to little more than consulting, so I'm not sure what he thinks he's going to get out of this. The "he stole the show idea from me" rap never holds up in court because ideas aren't considered intellectual property. If I pitch you an idea, you are free to run with it all you want under most circumstances. What stops this from happing in general is that ideas are pretty worthless without solid talent there to turn the idea into an entertaining story.

At best, it seems like all Baer will get out of this is a minor settlement for his consulting. He will never get a cut of the shows past and future profit since HBO owns it, not Chase.

This, I think, is probably going to end up turning the jury:

The lawsuit claims Chase later made phone calls to Baer at his North Jersey home to ask questions about the Mafia in the state. Chase sent Baer a draft of the proposed first episode, according to the lawsuit. Baer responded 14 months later but "didn't make a single suggestion for improvement of my script," Chase said in a court filing.

What's actionable here in the big picture is what Baer provided that went into the script. That matters, while the rest is just junk. If Chase is telling the truth and this point goes uncontested, it'll be over before it began. You simply can't sue someone and recover damages for using an idea you gave them -- if you can prove you gave it to them at all.

If Baer, on the other hand, can prove something of his went into that script...well, then it's game on.
in Legal, Television


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