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9th Circuit Upholds Win for Lopez, Studios in 'Flashdance' Case
June 12, 2006

By Leslie Simmons

Jennifer Lopez has a new reason to dance.

The U.S. Court of Appeal for the 9th Circuit on Monday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit filed against the actress/singer, as well as Sony Music Entertainment and Paramount Pictures Corp., by the woman who inspired the 1983 movie "Flashdance."

Maureen Marder, who was a construction worker by day and an exotic dancer by night, sued the defendants claiming Lopez's 2003 video for her song "I'm Glad" was an unauthorized depiction of her life story.

Marder claimed she was entitled to share in the revenues from the video, in which Lopez re-created scenes from the hit movie, and accused the defendants of copyright infringement, violation of Marder's right of publicity and false designation of origin.

But U.S. District Court Judge Terry Hatter dismissed the case, siding with the defendants' position that Marder failed to prove any of her claims. Marder then appealed to the 9th Circuit.

The unanimous three-judge 9th Circuit panel agreed with Hatter and relied on the release Marder signed on Dec. 6, 1982. Pursuant to that agreement, Marder received $2,300 and cleared Paramount Pictures "of and from each and every claim, demand, debt, liability, cost and expense of any kind or character which have arisen or are based in whole or in part on any matters occurring at any time prior to the date of this release."

Marder also released Paramount from claims that were in any way connected with the screenplay material and the production, filming and exploitation of "Flashdance."

"The release's language is exceptionally broad and we hold that it is fatal to each of Marder's claims against Paramount," Judge Harry Pregerson wrote in the 9th Circuit's opinion. "Such a release of 'each and every claim' covers all claims within the scope of the language, absent extrinsic evidence to the contrary." And because Marder could not sue Paramount to assert co-ownership of the movie, she could not establish her claims of copyright infringement against Lopez and Sony.

Joining Pregerson in the opinion were judges John Noonan and Sidney Thomas.

Marder, the panel concluded, gave up a "broad array of claims relating to any assistance she provided during the creation of the Hollywood movie. Thus, the only reasonable interpretation of the release is that it encompasses the various copyright claims she asserts in the instant suit."

Though the court acknowledged, in hindsight, Marder's agreement with Paramount seemed unfair to her -- receiving only $2,300 and releasing all claims for a movie that grossed $150 million -- nothing indicated that Marder was defrauded or a victim of any deceit, misrepresentation, duress or undue influence, Pregerson wrote. Marder was represented by an attorney at the time she signed the release.

Lopez, Sony and Paramount were represented by David Fink of White O'Connor Curry & Avanzado in Los Angeles and Dale Cendali and Paula Ambrosini of O'Melveny & Myers in New York. Fink and Cendali argued the case.

Marder was represented by Robert Helfing of Los Angeles' Sedgwick Detert Moran & Arnold.

The 9th Circuit case is Marder v. Lopez, 04-55615.


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