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May 9, 2014

Salem woman claims Hollywood stole her ideas

SALEM — A Salem author who lost a copyright infringement suit four years ago over a TV show about a time traveler is now claiming that Hollywood producers used material from another of her self-published books to create another TV show.

Debra Feldman filed suit earlier this week in U.S. District Court against Shonda Rhimes, the producer of the hit shows “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Private Practice” and “Scandal,” and several of her associates, as well as ABC, Disney, a string of talent agencies and law firms, and 75 unnamed “John Doe” defendants.

Feldman is the self-published author of a series of books, “The Overlap Series,” according to her complaint. The books are about a family of time travelers.

In 2007, she sued Fox Television, NBC and Rhimes over a show called “Journeyman,” which was about a man who travels through time to help people in trouble.

She claimed that the show was too similar to her books and that the producers had not only appropriated details from her work, but had somehow accessed letters on her computer and phone conversations.

In 2010, a federal judge dismissed the case, finding that the concept of “time travel” is a common literary device and not something that can by copyrighted and that Feldman had not shown how it was possible that the producers had access to her books in the first place.

Now, Feldman argues that when she submitted another of her books in the series — unpublished at the time — as evidence in the 2007 lawsuit, someone broke an order “sealing” the exhibit. According to Feldman, the plot of that book, about doctors practicing medicine on a remote island, was stolen to create another TV show called “Off the Map” in 2011.

Like “Journeyman,” “Off the Map” was canceled after one season.

Courts reporter Julie Manganis can be reached at 978-338-2521, via email at jmanganis@salemnews.com or on Twitter @SNJulieManganis.

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