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1/17/2012
Source: Law360
 

'Spider-Man' Producers Strike Back At Ex-Director Taymor

Producers of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" fought back Tuesday against the Broadway musical's ex-director Julie Taymor, answering her previous copyright complaint with counterclaims accusing her of breaching writing and collaboration agreements, and targeting her in a separate antitrust suit.

8 Legged Productions LLC and others including Goodbye Entertainment LLC and Savior Productions LLC filed counterclaims in New York federal court in response to the copyright and breach of contract case Taymor and her company LOH Inc. filed in November.

Taymor, who was supposed to co-write and collaborate on a Spider-Man musical, refused to make good on her obligations, causing unneeded expense and delay, according to the complaint. Instead of putting together a family friendly story, Taymor insisted on developing a dark and bizarre show involving suicide, sex and death, the counterclaim says.

With the show in dire straights, the show's then-lead producers turned to current lead producers Michael Cohl and Jeremiah Harris — defendants in Taymor's complaint — who undertook “superhuman efforts” to save the show, which began preview performances in November.

“As a result of all of the changes that Taymor could not or would not make, the Spider-Man musical is now a hit," the complaint said. "The show is a success despite Taymor, not because of her."

The producers, as well as musicians Bono and The Edge, recognized that significant changes needed to be made, but Taymor wouldn't hear of it, storming out of meetings when changes were hinted at and refusing to talk to production team members who suggested changes, the producers allege.

The producers had to bring in a new writer to write a “new book," or script, for the show, which Taymor had been contracted to do, as well as a new director to implement the new book and other changes, they claim.

The complaint also says Taymor's copyright claims are baseless.

The first two counterclaims are for breach of contract, and are brought by 8 Legged against Taymor and LOH. The first counterclaim centers on a July 2005 agreement in which Taymor allegedly agreed to collaborate on a “dramatic musical work” while the second focuses on an August 2005 deal that allegedly called for Taymor to serve as “co-owner/co-writer” of the book for the Spider-Man musical.

Goodbye has also brought a counterclaim against Taymor for breach of fiduciary duty, while the final two counterclaims seek declaratory judgment that Taymor isn't a co-author of the musical and that the counterclaim plaintiffs have the right to produce the musical in non-Broadway venues.

Glen Berger, another defendant whom Taymor identified as a co-writer of the Spider-Man book, also filed an answer and counterclaim Tuesday.

In addition, 8 Legged — on its own — filed a Sherman Act complaint against Taymor, LOH Inc., and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society Inc. union in New York on Tuesday.

In that case, 8 Legged, which says it was the lead producer of the show, asks the court to declare that the defendants' efforts to impose the terms of a collective bargaining pact between the SDC and trade association The Broadway League upon Taymor's work on the Spider-Man show were unlawful.

The defendants aren't immune from antitrust liability because Taymor is an independent contractor, and their conduct is outside the purview of the National Labor Relations Act, the complaint alleges.

The SDC isn't a lawfully recognized representative of any employees of 8 Legged or the Spider-Man musical, including Taymor, and the “entire alleged collective bargaining relationship at issue in this case is a sham.”

“When stripped to its essence, the SDC's attempt to 'represent' Taymor with respect to her work on the musical is nothing more than a unlawful conspiracy among independent contractors and the union operating under the guise of a fictitious collective bargaining relationship,” the complaint said.

The complaint also asks the court to bar an arbitrator from issuing a decision in a proceeding SDC launched in June.

That arbitration seeks “to force 8 Legged to pay Taymor full royalties as director and collaborator despite the fact that Taymor caused numerous delays, drove up costs and failed to direct a musical about Spider-Man that could open on Broadway,” the complaint said.

The producers were left with no choice but to bring in a new director, and the fact that he was able to step in and make the changes Taymor wouldn't is “the only reason the show is still running and is still paying its cast and crew,” 8 Legged said.

The current counterclaim plaintiffs in the copyright and contract litigation — other than Berger — are represented by Dale Cendali, Claudia Ray, Courtney Farkas and Joshua Simmons of Kirkland & Ellis LLP.

Taymor is represented by Charles Spada and Matthew Coogan of Lankler Siffert & Wohl LLP.

8 Legged is represented in the antitrust case by Paolo Morante of DLA Piper.

That copyright and contract case is Taymor et al. v. 8 Legged Productions LLC et al., case number 1:11-cv-08002, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

The antitrust case is 8 Legged Productions LLC v. Julie Taymor et al., case number 12-cv-0377, in the same court.

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