Universal Studios Sues Over Porn Parody Of '50 Shades Of Grey'; Ignoring 50 Shade's Own History As Fan Fiction

from the fan-fiction-begets-fan-fiction dept

Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of porn parody movies created. Porn studios have realized that it’s an effective way to differentiate themselves from “everyday porn.” While some have wondered about the legality of these things, very few have bothered to take the producers to court, recognizing that parody is generally considered protected under fair use. However, apparently Universal Studios has decided that enough is enough and has sued the maker of a porn parody of the book 50 Shades of Grey, Smash Pictures. 50 Shades, of course, is that insanely (seriously: insanely) popular erotic novel, and Universal is arguing that the flick hits a little too close to home, so to speak, and isn’t a “parody” so much as it’s just an adaptation of the book, which Universal holds the rights to. Specifically, the lawsuit, filed by Universal and “Fifty Shades Limited,” uses the claims from the director that the movie is “very true” to the book to suggest it isn’t a parody at all:

box for the First XXX Adaptation promotes the infringing work as “[b]ased upon” the Fifty Shades Trilogy and as “[putting] the kinky fantasies that you only imagined into vivid color.” According to a Smash Pictures executive’s interview with L.A. Weekly, the First XXX Adaptation is “very true to the book,” with the script written “to be as close to the series as (director Jim PowersJ can get.” Due to the popularity of the Fifty Shades Trilogy, Smash Pictures expects that the First XXX Adaptation “just might be our biggest film to date.”

By lifting exact dialogue, characters, events, story, and style from the Fifty Shades Trilogy, Smash Pictures ensured that the First XXX Adaptation was, in fact, as close as possible to the original works. Beginning with the First XXX Adaptation’s opening scene and continuing throughout the next two and a half hours of the film, Smash Pictures copies without reservation from the unique expressive elements of the Fifty Shades Trilogy, progressing through the events of Fifty Shades of Grey and into the second book, Fifty Shades Darker. The First XXX Adaptation is not a parody, and it does not comment on, criticize, or ridicule the originals. It is a rip-off, plain and simple.

Universal also seems pissed off that the studio is selling a “Fifty Shades of Pleasure: Play Kit & Movie” that has not just a DVD of the porn flick, but “various adult novelty items used in the Fifty Shades Trilogy.”

Universal may very well have a case here. At the very least, it raises some questions about how one creates a “porn parody” of an already pornographic novel. And, that’s especially true when the language in the novel is barely above the level of your typical porn script already. The complaint has over four pages of dialogue comparison between the original book and the porn flick and… well… it’s not exactly fine literature.

Still, the thing that strikes me about this — and which isn’t mentioned in the filing at all — is that Fifty Shades, itself, actually came out of a “pornographic adaptation” of the Twilight series. In fact, while those behind Fifty Shades have sought to erase this history, it does seem like a relevant point. Fifty Shades was pornographic Twilight “fan fiction,” which was later rewritten to scrub it of references to Twilight. While Fifty Shades’ author, EL James, her agent and publisher all like to claim that the Twilight fan fic James wrote and the eventual Fifty Shades book are really different works, someone compared the two using a plagiarism checker and found them to be 89% similar.

And, of course, out of that form of “infringement,” something else came about. Seems pretty hypocritical (but, really, all too typical) to try to stop other adaptations/extensions of the work now that you’re profiting off of the same sort of thing.

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Companies: fifty shades limited, smash pictures, universal studios

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Comments on “Universal Studios Sues Over Porn Parody Of '50 Shades Of Grey'; Ignoring 50 Shade's Own History As Fan Fiction”

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37 Comments
Lirodon (profile) says:

But you know what I love? Whenever a film company gets the rights to make a film based off a book, it always seems like that they pretty much take over property rights related to it so they can sue others over it like they own the entire franchise (see for instance, Summit going crazy over any mentioning of a word associated with a novel involving vampires)

Chris Brand says:

Where's the infringement ?

Sure sounds like they used ideas from the book, and even dialogue, but they didn’t copy the book, or distribute it, and I don’t think a movie counts as a translation. Obviously, lawyers can argue anything, but I really don’t think that copyright was intended to stop people making movie adaptations of books that they don’t own the rights to – seems to me that the movie and the book are two very different expressions of the same ideas.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Where's the infringement ?

“I really don’t think that copyright was intended to stop people making movie adaptations of books that they don’t own the rights to “

In fact, that is precisely what the copyright act is intended to cover. It’s the right to prepare derivative works. I’m wondering what your beliefs to the contrary are based on.

Christoph Wagner (profile) says:

So to recap: 50 shades of grey was a porn parody of Twilight. It became something else. Now the movie “50 Shades of Grey” is a movie adaption of “50 Shades of Grey”. And one so close that they actually use the book as script as far as it’s possible.

If I understood this right so far I wouldn’t say they forgot the origins of 50 shades. You can agree or disagree with the rules as they are, but IMO this is pretty clear cut in favour of Universal (never thought I’d write that or even defend them, I feel dirty now).

If they did an actual parody of 50 Shades things would be different.

btrussell (profile) says:

Re: Re: Thrust that double-edged sword.

“Pornography (often abbreviated as “porn” in informal usage) is the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter. Pornography may use a variety of media, including books, magazines, postcards, photos, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video, and video games.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pornographic

Cory of PC (profile) says:

I don’t know… I remember seeing a different porn parody of Twilight out there… and that was parodying Twilight directly. And I do remember it was part of a joke: “It’s a better love story than Twilight.”

So if I were to find either the actual Twilight porn parody or the 50 Shades movie, I’ll probably take Twilight. Either way, it’s going to be a lonely night…

Desco (profile) says:

Title??

One of the hallmarks of “porn parody movies” is they change the name to a 3rd-grade-clever rhyming pun like “Schindler’s Fist”, “Bonin’ the Barbarian”, “Ate Men Out”, “Cockodile Dundee”, “Hairy Peter Made the Philosopher Moan”, etc, etc. Universal might have an argument since they called it “Fifty Shades of Grey” and acknowledged it is “A XXX Adaptation” of the books.

But seriously… How difficult could this be:
Filthy Shades of Grey?
Fifty Shades of Gay?
Fifty Shags a Day?
Fisty sh

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

By lifting exact dialogue, characters, events, story, and style from the Fifty Shades Trilogy…

So. Lawyers for Universal Studios are asserting that porn directors actually read their source material. They assert that a porn movie – a porn movie – runs over two and a half hours. They further put forth the baffling idea that a porno can contain scripted dialogue.

This goes way beyond the typical snorting-coke-off-a-stripper’s-ass legalese and into the murky twilight world of tinfoil underwear and submitting legal documents written on bar napkins. Intervention is called for.

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