Defamation Suit Against The “Wolf Of Wall Street” – Risk Of “Inspiring” Characters On Film And Television

Categories: Asma Raza

The movie The Wolf of Wall Street is based on the book of the same name by Jordan Belmont. The book spoke in detail of Andrew Greene, who was Stratton Oakmont’s director, consultant and chief financial officer from 1993 to 1996. In the book, Greene describes his involvement in the crime with the nickname “Wigwam” (reference to the Indian store). Americans). The film features a Wall Street wolf, a support figure named Nicky Koskoff, who wears cheekbones and is known as “Rugrat” for unfair and illegal behavior. This includes participation in sexuality / adultery and money laundering activities, organized by one of the founders of Stratton Oakmont in Jordan Belmont (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). Greene sued the producers of Paramount Pictures and the film, alleging that the Koskoff character has a defamatory image.

Recently, a significant number of libel complaints appear to be based on the unfavorable portrayal of a real person in a fiction based on real events. We have Mossack Fonseca & Co., SA et al. Netflix Inc., which is based on the representation of Panamanian lawyers at the Panama Papers office, has published documents describing their practices to help clients earn money to avoid paying taxes. Defamatory lawsuits show that two people are falsely represented in crimes, including secondary conspiracies linking them to drug cartels and Russian criminals. the portrait was imaginary and should be fun.

The same goes for Fairstein v. Netflix, Ava Duvernay and Attica Lock, in which former New York prosecutors have sued Netflix and Ava DuVernay in a series of portraits of Fairstein (as a smaller character) in Netflix’s “When They See Us”. In his trial, Fairstein claims to be “false and defamatory in almost all the scenes in the three episodes where it occurs …” and that such representation “cannot be justified by the simple use of an art license or a dramatization “. According to the complaint, the series “portrays Ms. Fairstein under her real name as an unethical bad racist who is determined to imprison innocent colored children at all costs.”

In California, slander is defined by art. According to Article 45 of the Civil Code, “an incorrect and unfavorable written, printed, graphic, pictorial or other representation which draws attention and exposes all hatred and contempt for mockery or oblivion to those who flee or avoid them, or those who who usually harm him in the course of their work. “Defamation is defined in the same way in most states. In order to establish defamation, the operator must establish that the statements were defamatory, that the statements were disclosed to third parties, that the statements were false, and that third parties reasonably understood that the statements If the actor is a public figure, as in Wall of Wolf Street, and probably in two cases on Netflix, the actor must also provide clear and convincing evidence that the allegation was made with a “genuine malice” feeling when the defendant he knew that the charge had false or serious doubts as to the veracity of the charge.

Greene’s problem was that the bad deeds attributed to Koskoff in the film affected Greene. This is different from two Netflix cases where the people represented are real people. Here, the Koskoff character was a fictional character. Greenen had to prove that Koskoff’s fictional character “was so similar to him that one [viewer of the film] knew that a real person would have no problem connecting the two.”

In the de novo case, the second round upheld the lower court’s appeal in the defamation proceedings against Greene, as Greene did not prove that the defendants “acted with absolute knowledge or ignorance in the defamatory statements” and “in other words, Greene could not prove that Koskoff’s character must be him, and concluding that the accused was not created by a “real malicious” act, the second round concluded that:

  1. The defendants have taken a number of steps to ensure that the film does not mislead anyone. The filmmakers and author reduced the number of characters compared to the number in the book by creating several complex characters that were not suitable for one person. The producers also created fictional characters that conveyed the atmosphere of the Stratton Oakmont, but had no real analog.
  2. No sensible viewer of the film believes the producers wanted the Koskoff character to play Greene. There are no characters named Andrew Greene or Wigwam in the movie. At the same time, Koskoff did a clearly different (committed) job on the film than Greene in real life (corporate finance manager).
  3. The producers added a report to the end of the film stating that the characters in the film had invented it.

Despite the fact that the producer won the appeal, this case is an example of the risks associated with creating a fantasy job based on real events, including fantasy characters. It also includes examples of steps manufacturers can take to prevent them from staying on the losing side of the libel suit.

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