In a case that appears to limit the rights of screenwriters to pursue copyright infringement cases, a 9th Circuit judicial panel has ruled against a screenwriter suing Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.


Nancey Silvers sued Sony Pictures for copyright infringement after the studio released the 1998 movie, "Stepmom." Silvers claims the ideas in the movie are similar to her script that was turned into the movie "The Other Woman," which aired on television several years earlier and was produced by Frank & Bob Films II, also known as von Zerneck/Sertner Films.


The panel did not rule on whether Sony had infringed on Silvers' copyright but on the more general question of whether the screenwriter had a right to sue the studio.


That was an issue because Frank & Bob Films owned the copyright to Silvers' script but assigned her "all right, title and interest" to pursue the legal action.


The decision by seven of 11 appellate judges agreed with Sony that Silvers did not have the legal standing to bring a copyright infringement claim because she did not own the copyright at the time she filed the lawsuit.


The panel's decision overturned a prior ruling by a lower federal court that was upheld by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals two years ago.


The studio was backed in the case by the Motion Picture Association of America.


Silvers may still appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.


Beyond Borders
Buchalter Nemer Fields & Younger PC has opened its first out-of-state office in several years as part of its efforts to grow into a regional firm.


The 150-lawyer Los Angeles firm is adding six partners, an associate and a senior counsel with the acquisition of Phoenix-based Anderson Brody Levinson & Weiser, which has dissolved.


"This is our first step across borders in recent times," said Rick Cohen, president of Buchalter Nemer. "Phoenix, in particular, was something we were looking at."


Buchalter Nemer previously had an out-of-state office in New York that closed. Cohen said he would like to grow the new Arizona office by at least 5 percent each year.


The Arizona attorneys will work under the name Anderson Brody Buchalter Nemer and focus on the financial sectors and real estate litigation.


City Prevails
Lynwood will not have to pay a $1.4 million settlement to a former contractor who was indicted on fraud charges, according to a recent opinion by a state appellate panel.


The March 24 decision reversed a lower court judge's order enforcing the settlement between the city and Bevan Thomas, whose $2.6 million consulting contract with the city's solid waste and recycling program was canceled. The settlement also included payments to Thomas' wife, Laverne Jackson, who was to be paid $600,000 under a similar contract.


Staff reporter Amanda Bronstad can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 225, or at abronstad@labusinessjournal.com .

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