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07.14.2009 Blog

What do art fraud and Jesus have in common?


A complaint recently filed in the Eastern District of Virginia concerns a story “of burning professional jealousy, fueled by the glory of seeing one’s name in the lime lights of the big screen, in combination with greed.”  The complaint was filed in the Richmond division (Case Number 3:08cv386), by Raman K. Singh (“Singh”), an English professor retired from Mary Washington University, against Gary Haas aka Gary Hollywood, (“Haas”) an individual who lives on the same small Greek island as Singh.   Singh seeks a declaratory judgment that his story The Jesus Manuscript, about a theory that Jesus visited India before his death, created in 2006, does not infringe The Ikon, a story about art forgery, written by Haas and Singh in 2007.


Singh alleges that he wrote a script called The Sand Relic, about an archaeologist seeking a relic/manuscript written by the Greek hero Odysseus, set in the Sahara Desert.  However, when he didn’t receive a production offer for his script, Singh changed the manuscript to one written by Jesus and guarded by a hostile tribe in India, and changed the title from The Sand Relic to The Quest.  Blockbuster Scripts, which offered to buy an option to produce The Quest, suggested Singh change the name to The Jesus Manuscript.


Meanwhile, according to Singh, Haas also wrote a novel and screenplay called The Ikon, about a priceless painting, called The Ikon, that would be replaced with a forgery, set on a Greek island.  Singh alleges in the Complaint that because Haas was unable to sell the screenplay, he asked Singh to rewrite it, which Singh agreed to and completed in March, 2007.  Nevertheless, Haas and Singh were unsuccessful in selling the new version of The Ikon.


Having been unable to sell The Ikon, and hearing that Singh had sold his option to The Jesus Manuscript to Blockbuster, Haas allegedly wrote a letter to some of the collaborative producers of The Jesus Manuscript, claiming that it infringed The Ikon.  However, Singh alleges that Haas had not read one word of The Jesus Manuscript, and the stories and characters are completely different.  Upon receipt of the letter, production of The Jesus Manuscript immediately ceased. 


Singh brings various claims for a declaratory judgment action that his work does not infringe The Ikon, that Haas tortiously interfered with his contractual relationship with Blockbuster and other producers, libel and injunctive relief.


For a copy of the complaint, please click here.


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