4 July 2018Copyright

Judge dismisses ‘The Girls’ plagiarism allegations

District Judge William Orrick has dismissed allegations of copyright infringement and plagiarism against Emma Cline, author of best-selling novel “ The Girls”.

Orrick dismissed the copyright complaint at the US District Court for the Northern District of California on Thursday, June 28.

In 2016, Cline released her debut novel, “The Girls”, which was sold in 2014 as part of a $2 million, three-book deal, The Washington Post reported.

Inspired by Charles Manson’s cult, the fictional story, set in 1969, tells the story of an isolated teenager who gets caught up in a commune on a ranch.

As explained by Orrick, Cline’s ex-boyfriend, Chaz Reetz-Laiolo, accused Cline of “stealing his work for her book”. Cline and Reetz-Laiolo were romantically involved from 2009—when college-student Cline met lecturer Reetz-Laiolo—until 2012.

In response to his allegations, Cline claimed that Reetz-Laiolo was guilty of “terrible conduct” including domestic abuse. She filed a complaint against him in 2017 making a range of allegations.

On the same day, Reetz-Laiolo filed a suit against Cline and “The Girls” publisher, Penguin Random House. The complaint listed 13 claims, including copyright infringement.

Reetz-Laiolo alleged that Cline’s work has “numerous narrative overlaps” with his “All Sea” manuscript, which is about a teenager who is sent away to live with a father figure.

He claimed that Cline used his computer and email accounts to “steal numerous distinctive passages and phrases” by using spyware.

Both parties filed a motion to dismiss the other side’s complaints.

Though there are “undeniable similarities” between “The Girls” and “All Sea”, Orrick noted that they are “predominately isolated” to general plot ideas which are not protected by copyright law.

The stories “vary significantly in detail, breadth, and texture”, Orrick said, and there is “little similarity aside from the coming-of-age” mood and theme in both works.

He dismissed the copyright infringement claims without leave to amend.

At the hearing, Reetz-Laiolo suggested “seemingly for the first time” that his complaint extends to intermediate copying, Orrick explained. He noted that, if Reetz-Laiolo intends to claim for intermediate copying, he must “plausibly state” this in an amended complaint within 30 days of the order.

“This litigation is grist for its own novel”, Orrick said as he granted some of the other motions to dismiss. Multiple complaints survived on both sides.

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