FX Sued For Copyright Infringement Over ‘The League’

Writers Joseph Balsamo and Peter Ciancarelli say the network ripped off The League from their The Commissioner. In a nine-page civil complaint (read it here) filed last week in New York, the pair claim FX and League co-creator-executive producer Jeff Schaffer, also named as a defendant, lifted significant elements of the duo’s series about a group of friends who form a fantasy football league. “Given the numerous and striking similarities between the two works, there can be no dispute that defendants Schaffer and/or FX had access to and copied protectable elements of the treatment,” the suit says. The suit then outlined 10 similarities between the two works. The plaintiffs filed Commissioner with the WGA back in 2006 and put the script online soon afterwards in an effort to attract attention. The League, created by Schaffer and wife Jackie Marcus Schaffer (who is not named as a defendant), has been on FX since October 2009.

Related: FX Renews ‘The League’ For Fourth Season

Claiming “irreparable damage as a consequence of their inability to market the treatment to television producers and networks with interest in their work”, the plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages based on profits derived from the infringement as well as legal fees. The fourth season of The League debuts on FX on October 11. Plaintiffs are represented by Anthony Mango of the New York firm Mango & Iacoviello.

Comments (33)

  • Can they prove Schaefer saw their script online? No??? Guess what — it’s called group think. It’s all the same idea.

    Comment by Please... — Monday September 17, 2012 @ 4:14pm PDT  
  • As someone who’s going into week 3 with problems with my running back (Forte), I have to say these guys are grasping at straws. That’s not a unique plot point.

    Chuck Zito actually pitched a motorcycle gang saga to FX before Kurt Sutter, and we all saw how far that got him. This is DOA.

    Move on, come up with a novel idea. Try again.

    Comment by Stilted — Monday September 17, 2012 @ 4:20pm PDT  
  • “a strip bar visit where the characters are more into their game than the girls.”
    Whoa, what an original idea. I’ve never seen that premise before, ever.

    Comment by glenn — Monday September 17, 2012 @ 4:20pm PDT  
  • OMG! A show about fantasy football had a story about the characters having issues with their running backs? Or guys being more into their fantasy teams than girls? Pretty sure ANY series/movie about this subject would have those storylines. Not specific at all.

    There have been dozens of projects in development (both TV and film) about fantasy football, and The League was the one to actually come into fruition…so these amateurs (who puts a script online to get attention anyway??) really think they were the only ones to have that idea? Ugh. This suit will get thrown out WITH prejudice and no one will ever hear from these jokers again.

    Comment by ridiculous — Monday September 17, 2012 @ 4:31pm PDT  
  • They won’t hand over any copies but they no doubt saw it online from a Google search. They were stupid to use anything identifiable from what was on the web but thieves always make dumb mistakes that give them away.

    Comment by Anonymous — Monday September 17, 2012 @ 4:33pm PDT  
  • I’m not joking – FX counsel should contact me to testify. Because the 10 events that happen in both scripts happened to me in REAL LIFE.

    Guess what, geniuses? You wrote the most obvious first choices possible with this script:

    1. “A group of friends compete in fantasy football with a comedic twist.” (As opposed to fantasy leagues that only have 1 person and he is a stranger and they aren’t fun or funny).

    2. “Siblings are included.” yeah, jack-off. My brother and I have been in the same league since I don’t know, everyone’s brother was in their legue.

    3. “A reigning champion has won the league 2 years in a row.” Try three times for my league’s commissioner. I hate that prick.

    4. The reigning champion has issues with his running back in week 3.

    Are you %$#@ing with me? Are you? ARE YOU %$#@ING S&%TTING ME HERE?

    Exhibit A: Jamaal Charles.
    Exhibit B: Matt Forte
    Exhibit C: Fred Jackson.

    All three got injured. All three were on championship teams last year. Of course running backs get injured. It’s what they &%$#ing do. This is getting retarded.

    5. “Arch rivals play each other for the right to go to the championship, and the loser freaks out.” Yeah. That’s what you do when you lose. You freak out. And EVERYONE is an arch rival in longstanding leagues, you nutwasher.

    6. “Characters who are aspiring entertainers…go through life aloof without focusing on fantasy football.” As opposed to all of those super-on-the-ball aspiring artists. Guess what? We had to kick my brother, a – gasp! – aspiring artist, out of the league for failing to set lineups.

    7. “Owners and the commissioner dispute over a waiver-wire process.” Oh…I get it! An argument is so fucking novel that only a team of literary geniuses could have dreamed it in their imagination land! We had a three-week, 229 email argument over free agency. Once again, my life has been hacked!

    8. “During the playoffs, league members go to a bar to watch the games and tensions are high.” HAHAHHAHAHHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHA DEAR GOD LET ME BE IN THE COURTROOM WHEN YOU READ THAT OUT LOUD TO A JUDGE.

    9. “The Fantasy Draft is held in Las Vegas.” LAS VEGAS? FANTASY? GROWN MEN WATCHING SPORTS AND GETTING DRUNK? THESE THINGS SIMPLY DON’T GO HAND-IN-HAND EVER!! I am once again looking forward to my draft in Vegas next year.

    10. “The characters are so enamored with fantasy that even the allure of beautiful dancers won’t pull them away.” this is the simplest extrapolation of the danger of fantasy football ever. ‘you guys wouldn’t stop talking fantasy football even if there were naked women here!’ Chalk this up to, “how could anyone ever write a strip club scene into a Las Vegas show?”

    Once again, I have no dog in the hunt. But this was just effing comical.

    Comment by teddy — Monday September 17, 2012 @ 4:36pm PDT  
  • A concept for a 1/2 hr comedy about fantasy football as fantasy football was exploding in the mid-late 2000s isn’t exactly novel. THE LEAGUE is all about the specificity of the characters. I’d be curious to see how the characters in THE COMMISSIONER were written. Otherwise, this could absolutely be as simple as being beaten to the punch.

    Comment by Abe — Monday September 17, 2012 @ 4:42pm PDT  
  • Are you kidding me? As part of two different Fantasy Football leagues at least 8/10 of each of the “plot points” exist in EVERY league. Seriously… brother’s playing in the same league is suppost to be an original concept? An aloof player making it farther than they should (even notch the aspiring singer/actor/artist one on that)? And even the most specific of the complaints, holding your draft in Vegas is pretty much the most common place every league thinks of, because it’s the holy ground for gambling. The rest: reigning champions, waiver wire bickering, going to a bar to watch a game, using girls to try and distract other players and even passing on female advances because you’re too focused on your lineup…. that’s all weekly occurrences in all Fantasy Football leagues. Now executing a common concept in a hilarious and well produced tv show, that’s an original and rare occurrence.

    Comment by L — Monday September 17, 2012 @ 5:04pm PDT  
    • I disagree. Several of the points you mention don’t seem so obvious to me. I think they may have a case, and you helped make it for them.

      Comment by Lawyer — Monday September 17, 2012 @ 5:19pm PDT  
      • The fact is that they waited until nearly the start of season 3 to bring this suit about. That alone says that even these guys weren’t sure enough that The League had ripped them off, either that or they were waiting to see if it had legs so that they could try to swoop in for a potentially big payday. Either way, it seems like a moot point on the side of the writers of The Commissioner since it these “similarities” are not distinct enough. The defendant can and will probably argue that these “similarities” are natural progressions based on the theme of the series. I mean, how long can you go on a show about football without hitting any of these so-called “similarities”? This will determine their suit.

        Comment by J.A. — Monday September 17, 2012 @ 6:20pm PDT  
        • Um, its almost Season 4, genius!

          Comment by brutony — Tuesday September 18, 2012 @ 9:56am PDT  
  • I’m not an all caps kind of guy, but aspiring writers, DON’T PUT YOUR SCRIPTS ONLINE. Once more for emphasis: DO NOT PUT YOUR SCRIPTS ONLINE.

    Did these guys get ripped off? I dunno. Maybe. It happens. These online script-posting services are occasionally trolled by producers looking for concepts and throughlines to claim as their own. It’s insane to post your work online for all to see.

    Comment by Jase — Monday September 17, 2012 @ 5:17pm PDT  
    • Amen. Writers, if you don’t respect your own work, no one else will.

      Comment by butseriously — Tuesday September 18, 2012 @ 11:46am PDT  
  • Sorry but that civil complaint is funnier than any pilot these guys probably ever wrote. Every “original” idea, plot point, or character happens EVERY day in the lives of 90% of the population that plays fantasy football in the world. These guys have NO case whatsoever. I am sure they probably did write a fantasy football pilot like the 1000′s of other hack writers in this town that have a fantasy football pilot. But guess what? Their script didn’t make the cut b/c it takes more than a script to get a show off the ground. And definitely more creativity than this “original” plot point:

    “During the playoffs, league members go to a bar to watch the games and tensions are high.”

    ROTFL. literally.

    Comment by lovethistown — Monday September 17, 2012 @ 5:56pm PDT  
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