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View Full Version : JT Leroy Sued for Fraud by Movie Producer



AnneMarble
06-15-2007, 05:21 PM
Wow. This case has more twists than a bag of pretzels.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/15/nyregion/15writer.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Calla Lily
06-15-2007, 05:54 PM
Wow is right.

robeiae
06-15-2007, 06:09 PM
Seems to me, she should just give the forty-five grand back. The film the producers had hoped to make can't really be made, because of the deception. This doesn't make that deception into something notorious, but it was clearly what propelled the deal. And since the movie has not been made, there is no harm on either side, that I can see.

Bo Sullivan
06-15-2007, 06:24 PM
I've heard of using a pen name but this author took it to new heights.

wordmonkey
06-15-2007, 06:44 PM
Seems to me, she should just give the forty-five grand back. The film the producers had hoped to make can't really be made, because of the deception. This doesn't make that deception into something notorious, but it was clearly what propelled the deal. And since the movie has not been made, there is no harm on either side, that I can see.

But she sold the rights to the book. Not her life. The production company wanted to change the script/movie and wanted to option the rights to her (alter-ego's) life. If they had paid extra for THAT, I would agree with you, she maybe should return that money.

And let's be honest, there is a movie about the whole circus here (article said there was a documentarian in court, but there is a feature here as well). This is someone trying to save face and looking like a bigger a$$ in the process.

End of the day, the prod co got what they paid for.

robeiae
06-15-2007, 06:51 PM
But she sold the rights to the book.But she sold them under the auspices of her literary persona, and it was the interest in that persona, as a real person, that led to that sale. I think that's pretty obvious. I agree that the production company can't now switch to her life; they didn't pay for that. So the fix is to nullify the deal; she gets the rights back and they get the money back. Like I said, there is no harm on either side, so it's a pretty easy fix.

Calla Lily
06-15-2007, 07:03 PM
But she sold them under the auspices of her literary persona, and it was the interest in that persona, as a real person, that led to that sale.

One of my selling points is I have the qualifications to write about fictional corrupt/insane Catholic monks because I used to be a nun. Inside info etc. etc. Be in a heap of trouble if I got a contract partially based on that and it turned out I lied about it! (Not to mention the ground opening up and getting sucked straight down into Hell!) :tongue

She has to give back the money, IMO.

AnneMarble
06-15-2007, 07:27 PM
One of my selling points is I have the qualifications to write about fictional corrupt/insane Catholic monks because I used to be a nun. Inside info etc. etc. Be in a heap of trouble if I got a contract partially based on that and it turned out I lied about it!
Good point.

Also, I think the JT Leroy case was ... special ... because she allegedly got money from various people, got peole to help her out, etc., all because they thought she was this young gay male writer in trouble. (Supposedly she even got people to give her free editing.) I don't know if that makes a difference in the legal case, but it does make the whole thing weird.

On top of that, she's now claiming that JT Leroy was a personality that developed during therapy, and not really an attempt to defraud anyone. Or something. This story has more twists than a spiral noodle.


(Not to mention the ground opening up and getting sucked straight down into Hell!) :tongue
But then you could write about that. :D

Kate Thornton
06-15-2007, 07:30 PM
They optioned the book, not the person. Their options went sour and now they want their money back because the author isn't what they thought? The book is still the book...the book should stand on its own.

CaroGirl
06-15-2007, 07:50 PM
I didn't know gas station washrooms had fax machines.

I think the crux of the problem is that she agreed to sell the movie rights for the book itself, not the "frame" around it, which is her life story (not that of her persona). The company with which she signed the deal has changed the terms of the contract based on the author's misrepresentation. Hmmm. Don't know anything about contract law.

wordmonkey
06-15-2007, 08:30 PM
But she sold them under the auspices of her literary persona, and it was the interest in that persona, as a real person, that led to that sale. I think that's pretty obvious. I agree that the production company can't now switch to her life; they didn't pay for that. So the fix is to nullify the deal; she gets the rights back and they get the money back. Like I said, there is no harm on either side, so it's a pretty easy fix.

No.

When you sell the option on a book, which is what happened here, you sell the a prod co the chance to develop that work into a movie. They then have a fixed period of time to get that movie off the ground. At the end of that time, if the movie isn't made, they have the chance to do the same thing again.

Very clearly this was stuck in "development hell" which is common. They couldn't work out a way to make the script work so they wanted to change it up. Nothing wrong with that. But when they found they couldn't do what they wanted (the "Adapation" route) they saw the chance to recoup some lost money.

Caveat emptor.

BenPanced
06-15-2007, 08:37 PM
From what I understand (not a lawyer, never played one on TV, I don't even watch Law & Order: Original Recipe, blahblahblah fishcakes), if she signed the contract under the pen name, it would be null and void; if you write under a pen name, all legal transactions are conducted under your real name.

robeiae
06-15-2007, 08:47 PM
No.

When you sell the option on a book, which is what happened here, you sell the a prod co the chance to develop that work into a movie. They then have a fixed period of time to get that movie off the ground. At the end of that time, if the movie isn't made, they have the chance to do the same thing again.

Very clearly this was stuck in "development hell" which is common. They couldn't work out a way to make the script work so they wanted to change it up. Nothing wrong with that. But when they found they couldn't do what they wanted (the "Adapation" route) they saw the chance to recoup some lost money.

Caveat emptor.You seem to have accepted the defense's position without question. And that's fine. It may be correct. And you may very well be right that the company couldn't get it off the ground, and is now looking for ways to recoup the money it has spent.

But...none of this undoes, imo, the nature of the initial deal, which was to purchase the film rights for a novel written by someone named JT Leroy. And I maintain that the deal occurred based of who JT Leroy was, at that time. Now, it turns out that there was no JT Leroy. To me, that brings the legitimacy of the deal into question. And again, the simple and equitable solution is to nullify it. And I think that is how the court will ultimately rule, but I could easily be wrong.

And caveat emptor does not apply, imo, since there was a misrepresentation, planned or accidental, of what was being sold on the part of the seller.

AnneMarble
06-15-2007, 09:42 PM
From what I understand (not a lawyer, never played one on TV, I don't even watch Law & Order: Original Recipe, blahblahblah fishcakes), if she signed the contract under the pen name, it would be null and void; if you write under a pen name, all legal transactions are conducted under your real name.

Ooh, good point. In fact, this would make a great Law & Order episode. all they have to do is change the case to include a murder.


...But...none of this undoes, imo, the nature of the initial deal, which was to purchase the film rights for a novel written by someone named JT Leroy. And I maintain that the deal occurred based of who JT Leroy was, at that time. Now, it turns out that there was no JT Leroy. To me, that brings the legitimacy of the deal into question. And again, the simple and equitable solution is to nullify it. And I think that is how the court will ultimately rule, but I could easily be wrong.
Besides that, the thought that came to me was... (clears throat) The production company may have bought the rights to film the book, but they invested in the background story.

I don't know if that means anything legally. But it sure sound good at the time. ;)


And caveat emptor does not apply, imo, since there was a misrepresentation, planned or accidental, of what was being sold on the part of the seller.
Hmmm. Good point. I wonder if this means movie makers (and for that matter publishers) will now do background checks before buying autobiographical novels, memoirs, etc.

wordmonkey
06-15-2007, 09:44 PM
From what I understand (not a lawyer, never played one on TV, I don't even watch Law & Order: Original Recipe, blahblahblah fishcakes), if she signed the contract under the pen name, it would be null and void; if you write under a pen name, all legal transactions are conducted under your real name.

Reading the article, it appears that the deal was between her own "company" and the production company. So it could have been an agent acting on behalf of the "author" who signed the contract.

However, I DO watch Law & Order and I'm still no legal expert, but I would assume that the publisher knew the identity of the author and thus some kind of president was set to establish that the author and pen name were one and the same.

But I don't know.

wordmonkey
06-15-2007, 09:56 PM
You seem to have accepted the defense's position without question. And that's fine. It may be correct. And you may very well be right that the company couldn't get it off the ground, and is now looking for ways to recoup the money it has spent.

Innocent until proven guilty?

And I am basing my opinions more around what I know of optioning scripts and working with production companies. That her defence-position marries with what I know, isn't an issue.


But...none of this undoes, imo, the nature of the initial deal, which was to purchase the film rights for a novel written by someone named JT Leroy. And I maintain that the deal occurred based of who JT Leroy was, at that time. Now, it turns out that there was no JT Leroy. To me, that brings the legitimacy of the deal into question. And again, the simple and equitable solution is to nullify it. And I think that is how the court will ultimately rule, but I could easily be wrong.

But then you sell the option on your novel. It labors in development hell for a year. They re-up the option and still can't get it to work. The door is open to recoup their loss by claiming you weren't this that or the other. There is no guarantee when someone options a book or screenplay that it will ever see celuloid. They bought an exclusive time period with which to try and make a movie. They couldn't do it and wanted to change the basis of the movie. Whether you accept that they then wanted to change the deal/movie and thus discovered the pen-name doesn't matter. They bought an option, for a book, and got exactly what they paid for.


And caveat emptor does not apply, imo, since there was a misrepresentation, planned or accidental, of what was being sold on the part of the seller.

The only way it doesn't apply (and I would argue that it applies in every situation mone changes hands in return for something) is if they intended all along to make the movie about something OTHER THAN the book, and then they bought the wrong thing.

They bought an option on a book. The rest is guff. It would be like saying that I just discovered J.D. Salinger was actually a pen name used by Jackie Collins. She couldn't get taken seriously so she invente dthe identity of this reclusive author who wrote the great American novel and disappeared. Would discovering this make "Hollywood Wives" a better book? Would it make "Catcher in the Rye" a lesser one?

robeiae
06-15-2007, 10:07 PM
But then you sell the option on your novel. It labors in development hell for a year. They re-up the option and still can't get it to work. The door is open to recoup their loss by claiming you weren't this that or the other. There is no guarantee when someone options a book or screenplay that it will ever see celuloid. They bought an exclusive time period with which to try and make a movie. They couldn't do it and wanted to change the basis of the movie. Whether you accept that they then wanted to change the deal/movie and thus discovered the pen-name doesn't matter. They bought an option, for a book, and got exactly what they paid for. No. They did not get what they paid for. They paid for the rights to a book that was sold to them as the work of JT Leroy. That's not what they got, is it?

The only way it doesn't apply (and I would argue that it applies in every situation mone changes hands in return for something) is if they intended all along to make the movie about something OTHER THAN the book, and then they bought the wrong thing.It doesn't apply because what was sold was not the same as what was advertised.

They bought an option on a book. The rest is guff. It would be like saying that I just discovered J.D. Salinger was actually a pen name used by Jackie Collins. She couldn't get taken seriously so she invente dthe identity of this reclusive author who wrote the great American novel and disappeared. Would discovering this make "Hollywood Wives" a better book? Would it make "Catcher in the Rye" a lesser one?I don't know. Do you? regardless, none of that is germane, here.

And the question is one of interest and marketability, not one of "better" or "lesser."

wordmonkey
06-15-2007, 10:27 PM
No. They did not get what they paid for. They paid for the rights to a book that was sold to them as the work of JT Leroy. That's not what they got, is it? It doesn't apply because what was sold was not the same as what was advertised.

So the book doesn't matter. Only the author matters?

By this logic anyone who has ever bought a book written by someone using a pen name deserves a full refund. "I bought this book by George Eliot and I find it's some chick! Oh yeah, enjoyed the book, but I was lied to. Cash please. I would take a check, but I'm not sure who'd be really signing the thing."

robeiae
06-15-2007, 10:39 PM
So the book doesn't matter. Only the author matters?

By this logic anyone who has ever bought a book written by someone using a pen name deserves a full refund. "I bought this book by George Eliot and I find it's some chick! Oh yeah, enjoyed the book, but I was lied to. Cash please. I would take a check, but I'm not sure who'd be really signing the thing."*sigh*

As I said in the beginning, it is pretty clear in this case that the JT Leroy persona was relevant to the "why" of the sale. And it is also pretty clear that this persona was not just a pen name. So please spare me the strawmen, especially when they are so obvious.

wordmonkey
06-16-2007, 12:00 AM
*sigh*

I hear that. It can be so wearisome being patronizing towards the unwashed monkeys.


As I said in the beginning, it is pretty clear in this case that the JT Leroy persona was relevant to the "why" of the sale. And it is also pretty clear that this persona was not just a pen name. So please spare me the strawmen, especially when they are so obvious.

Then if you are saying it IS all about the author and not about the book, how can it be a strawman?

And unless there was a clause in the contract that stated "We are buying an option on this book based on the interesting, nay horrific yet heart-waring life of the author," they bought the book for the book. Now if there was such a clause, I stand corrected and bow to your cute-kitty-wisdom.

But frankly there's little point in either of us getting bent out of shape about this. Neither of us know, so we'll just have to see what comes out in the wash.

robeiae
06-16-2007, 03:54 AM
I hear that. It can be so wearisome being patronizing towards the unwashed monkeys.I don't like it when people ask snotty questions, based on misrepresentations of what I have said. Don't do that and I won't be patronizing. Fair?




Then if you are saying it IS all about the author and not about the book, how can it be a strawman?Because I am not saying it's all about the author. I am saying what it is about with regard to this specific case. And in this specific case, it is--again--quite clear that the persona of JT Leroy was a significant element with respect to interest in and the sale of the rights in question. The counter examples you have given don't demonstrate anything, since the specifics in these cases are not the same as the specifics in this case. No one is on trial for a felony, here. It's a civil case and the specifics are important and evidentiary, especially when the subject matter is intellectual property rights.


And unless there was a clause in the contract that stated "We are buying an option on this book based on the interesting, nay horrific yet heart-waring life of the author," they bought the book for the book.Sorry, no. There doesn't need to be a specific clause of that sort; the book was bought under the belief that it was something it was not. This doesn't mean the seller acted improperly; it could be that there was never any meeting of the minds on what was being sold. Still, in either case, the fix remains the same: nullify the contract. No harm on either side, return the cash, return the rights.