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(Update) Dimension And Endeavor: Hollywood Scuffle Over "$40K Man"

Update: Here's Dimension's response to my blog post: "We are not going to publicly comment on a private business matter."
Earlier Post: Two Hollywood insiders just forwarded me an email exchange between Endeavor Agency partner Tom Strickler and Dimension Films President of Production Richard Saperstein about a new “spec” script that Endeavor sold to New Line called “$40,000 Man.” Per Variety, the script is about “an astronaut who finds himself horribly injured in a car accident and rebuilt by the government to be a bionic man, on a budget of $40,000-which makes him not that bionic.” Sounds kind of funny, right?

The Six Million Dollar Man
The Six Million Dollar Man

Not to the famously litigious freres Weinstein: Clearly this is a spoof of “The Six Million Dollar Man,” the 70s TV show which starred Lee Majors. Harvey and Bob Weinsteins’ Dimension Films co-owns the remake rights with Universal (Parent owner is GE , which also owns CNBC ) and, at one point, had Jim Carrey attached to play the eponymous hero and Todd Phillips (“Old School,” “Starsky & Hutch”) attached to direct. This package naturally sounds itself like something of a spoof in the same tone as “The Brady Bunch Movie” or Phillips’ own “Starsky & Hutch.”

I haven’t read the script but here's the legal angle: A spoof is protected under the First Amendment right of parody-as decided in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case involving the winningly profane rap group 2 Live Crew and the Roy Orbison estate. 2 Live Crew parodied Orbison’s “Pretty Woman” without permission but the Supreme Court found that parody qualified as “fair use” (then the D.C. based satirical a cappella group "The Capitol Steps" filed an influential amicus brief in this case-oddly enough).

Strickler makes an apt point (see below) about the Weinsteins’ long-running exploitation of the parody protection in their “Scary Movie” franchise (co-owned by their old Disney partners), which is basically just a loose collection of scenes that “satirize” other movies simply by closely resembling them.

The email exchange I was forwarded is below (my sources say it's legit, but since I didn't get the emails from Strickler and Saperstein themselves, I have to put a caveat in there). FYI: Endeavor says "no comment" and Dimension hasn't yet responded to an email and a phone call.

Here's the exchange:

Tom-
Please give me a call about a spec script Elia Infascelli-Smith has gone out with called $40,000 MAN. As you know, along with Universal, we control the rights to SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN. My understanding is this spec includes characters we own.
Best- Richard

Richard Saperstein

Richard:
Good news. As you may know, The United States Supreme Court has affirmed the right of Parody as an unassailable First Amendment Right. This has enabled you to make movies like Scream and Scary Movie in which you parody many films which Dimension does not own or control.
The script is a parody and if you have any problems I suggest you hire a Constitutional lawyer and file a brief with the US Supreme Court. This will be an uphill battle - the court voted 9 to 0 when this last hit the docket and those stubborn justices all believe in Stare Decisis!
And if you succeed at the Supreme Court - you will have to stop making Scream and Scary Movie.
This will take about 5 to 7 years...and lawyers are an expensive breed but I wish you good luck on your journey to deny our First Amendment rights.
All the best
Tom

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.