A producer settled a lawsuit he filed against the creator of the ABC series “Black-ish” and other parties in which he alleged his idea for the series was stolen without giving him credit or compensation.
Bryan Barber filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court against Kenya Barris, Wilmore Films and two production companies in September 2016. The suit alleges breach of contract and fraud and sought more than $1 million in damages.
Barber’s lawyers filed court papers on May 23 with Judge Samantha Jessner stating that the case was resolved. No terms were divulged.
In April, Barris’ attorneys argued the case should be dismissed. Jessner denied their motion, writing that she saw similarities between the scripts for the two shows. In both, the principal character was employed in a media company’s urban department and both shows featured jokes about grape soda, the judge found.
Defense attorney Steven Stiglitz argued that the two shows were similar only because both are based on Barris’ life. The main character’s significant other is a doctor in both shows because Barris’ wife is a doctor, he argued.
“There is virtually nothing distinctive about the works that is similar,” Siglitz stated in his court papers. “As such, any reasonable person reviewing the two scripts would conclude they are markedly different.”
According to Barber’s suit, he and Barris met while attending Clark Atlanta University in the mid-1990s. They developed a friendship and later agreed to write for VH-1 Films a script based on Barber’s idea about the black experience as seen through the lens of a black man working in a mostly white entertainment industry, the suit stated.
The idea was based on Barber’s own life experiences, which he shared with Barris in confidence in expectation they would develop the project in partnership, according to his complaint.
VH-1 later dropped the project, but Barber did not authorize Barris to pursue his idea elsewhere, the suit stated. However, between 2006 and 2014 Barris in fact wrote and developed a pilot for “Black-ish” without telling the plaintiff and it aired on ABC in September 2014, the suit stated.
“The series from its inception has been a highly acclaimed and successful television series,” the suit stated.
The 43-year-old Barris “concealed from (Barber) the fact that Barris had hijacked … the development of the pilot and the series,” the suit stated.
Barber’s idea and “Black-ish” are similar in plot, character, mood and place and dialogue, according to the lawsuit.
Barber, 47, has directed many music videos for popular artists.
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