Movie Talk

’50 Shades’ Porn Parody Gets Spanked in Legal Battle With Universal

Movie Talk

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Photo courtesy of Krista Wick, ET Online

The brain trust behind the in-the-works movie adaptation of "50 Shades of Grey" took time out from its well-publicized hunt for lead actors to focus on a little porn action.

Or, to be precise, shutting down a little porn action.

Universal Pictures has settled its lawsuit against adult-film purveyors Smash Pictures, which was poised to release a little ditty titled "Fifty Shades of Grey: A XXX Adaptation."

While Smash declared its would-be opus "one of the most anticipated porn parody films of 2012" when the trailer was released last fall, Universal suits were not amused. The studio, which snapped up the screen rights to E.L. James' spicy best-seller for $5 million, insisted Smash's film infringed on Universal's copyrights, particularly since the "parody" used the title and character names from James' book, as well as many salient plot points.

Stuart Wall of Smash did himself no favors by telling L.A. Weekly, "Since they are going to make a mainstream [film] of the ["50 Shades"] books, too, dabbling in the adult world we're choosing to go with a XXX adaption which will stay very true to the book and its S&M-themed romance."

[Related: 'Fifty Shades of Grey' Author E.L. James Plans a How-To Book]

Hard-core "parodies" of popular movies and TV shows are a huge segment of the adult film market, with films taking queues from "Seinfeld" and "The Cosby Show" to "Batman" and "The Big Lebowski." But unlike most of those productions, the Smash riff on "50 Shades of Grey" not only wasn't played for laughs (at least not intentionally), it also appeared before Universal even hired a director or stars for its version.

When Universal filed suit against Smash, calling the porn version a "willful attempt to capitalize on the reputation of the book," Smash's attorney's stepped forward with an unpredictable defense – that "50 Shades of Grey" was actually in the public domain.

In a countersuit against Universal, Smash Pictures stated, "On information and belief, as much as 89 percent of the content of the allegedly copyrighted materials grew out of a multi-part series of fan fiction called 'Masters of the Universe' based on Stephenie Myer's 'Twilight' novels. On information and belief, this content was published online between 2009 and 2011 in various venues, including fanfiction.net and the person website of Ericka Leonard. On information and belief, much or all of this material was placed in the public domain."

Smash should have sprung for a good proofreader before filing its claim: E.L. James' real name is Erika Leonard Mitchell, not "Ericka Leonard," and she has a "personal website," not a "person website." Not to mention the "Twilight" series is the work of Stephenie Meyer, not Myer.

While it was indeed true that "50 Shades of Grey" began life as a work of fan fiction, Smash apparently decided to cut its losses and settle. Full details of the deal were not disclosed but we're guessing there won't be a XXX version of "50 Shades" anytime soon. At least until the film hits theaters in 2014.

Though a look at the trailer, which is still online, suggests we aren't missing that much.

See Mila Kunis respond to '50 Shades' casting rumors...

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