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'Empire' creators accused of plagiarism in lawsuit

Philly native Clayton Prince Tanksley has filed a lawsuit arguing that creators of the smash hit "Empire" stole his ideas.

A Philly entertainer claims in a federal lawsuit that the creators of the smash hit TV show "Empire" stole the idea for the show from him.

Clayton Prince Tanksley claims that "Empire," created by director Lee Daniels, was lifted from a pilot for a show called "Cream" that Tanksley pitched to Daniels in 2008 after an event in Philly.

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"Prince spoke privately with ... Daniels and pitched 'Cream' to him," states the lawsuit, filed in Philly federal court on Jan. 8. "Daniels ... affirmatively represented to Prince that he was very interested in the property and might well be disposed to proceed further with its development as a television soap opera series."

Tanksley, 50, an actor who played roles in "The Cosby Show" and TV series "Dark Justice," claims in court papers that in January 2015 he was startled to see the premiere of "Empire,"which he claims is a rip-off of his "Cream" concept.

"The television series 'Empire' is so substantially similar to 'Cream,' that... the physical appearance of the characters, plots, and scenes, as well as story lines are virtually identical to those shown on the DVD of 'Cream,'" the lawsuit claims.

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"Each of the male protagonists are from Philadelphia and have risen beyond their criminal pasts to establish record label businesses in that city," the suit states as evidence of plagiarism.

A scene by scene comparison included in the lawsuit highlights numerous other similarities between the two shows.

Tanksley also said that "Empire" killed any interest in "Cream," which he first created in 2005.

"Once 'Empire' began airing, none of the television networks was interested in 'Cream' due to its striking similarities to 'Empire,' which demonstrates that several objective observers immediately recognized the obvious and substantial similarities between the two shows," the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

 

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