Sylvester Stallone Escapes Copyright Lawsuit, Probably With The Help Of A Rag-Tag Team of Lawyer Mercenaries
In case you were wondering, action movie cliches are probably public domain. We now know this because a lawsuit alleging that Sylvester Stallone plagiarized a script called The Cordoba Caper for The Expendables has been rejected by federal judge Jed Rakoff, essentially on those grounds.
Corporate speechwriter Marcus Webb, writer of The Cordoba Caper, alleged that Stallone's action hero supergroup film borrowed heavily from his own script, a claim Stallone denies. Stallone admits he based his draft on a different script entitled Barrow by David Callahan, but that he has never seen Webb's. (Callahan is credited as co-writer on the final Expendables script.)
The similarities between Webb's and Stallone's scripts are striking at first glance. The Cordoba Caper involves the adventures of highly trained soldiers of fortune, employed by a wealthy benefactor to take out a ruthless despot engaged in genocidal programs related activities. This obviously bears a striking resemblance to the plot of The Expendables, right down to the 'rescuing a young woman' subplot. The only problem? It also sounds a lot like about 500 other action films.
The judge agreed, finding in his ruling that the plot points used in both films were "simple stock devices that are standard in action movies." Even The Expendables' most solid similarity to The Cordoba Caper - the villain in both stories is named 'General Garza' – was dismissed as such. "As defendants point out," Rakoff said, "Garza is a common Hispanic surname."
Webb's script was never picked up for development. He submitted it to several amateur screenwriting contests, none of which he won, prompting Judge Rakoff to note that, "It would require almost endless speculation" to conjure up the means by which Stallone would have laid eyes on it.
The bad news? People apparently believe that The Expendables has something resembling a ]script.' The good news? That screenplay you've been tooling with, about the rag-tag team of warriors brought together to right wrongs while delivering
tired awesome one liners and dispensing endless rivers of bullet casings can probably go forward. At least you know Stallone won't sue.