Bestselling Author Emma Cline Ripped Off Her Ex’s Work for ‘The Girls,’ Lawsuit Says

Cline has also filed her own lawsuit, alleging domestic violence against her ex

emma cline the girls
Photo: Emma Cline; Random House

This would make a great novel, though plenty of readers might find it unbelievable.

Emma Cline, author of 2016’s “The Girls,” is being sued by her ex-boyfriend, who claims that she used computer spyware to rip off his own writing to use in the bestselling book.

Cline has also filed her own suit against the ex, making some choice accusations herself.

A suit filed by Chaz Reetz-Laiolo in federal court in San Francisco reads, “This case arises from Defendant Cline’s unlawful invasion of the Plaintiffs’ private emails and other online accounts through her use of spyware and her plagiarism of Plaintiff Reetz-Laiolo’s writings, including from a manuscript that Cline stole out of his online accounts.”

Among the accusations: that Cline “plagiarized from a draft film script by Reetz-Laiolo, entitled ‘All Sea,’ which she accessed by secretly hacking into” Reetz-Laiolo’s online accounts.

“For example, where in ‘All Sea’ a male teen, at the behest of a friend group he wants acceptance from, agrees to commit a burglary and is caught and confronted by his single mother, in ‘The Girls,’ a female teen, at the behest of a social  group she wants acceptance from, is caught and confronted by her single mother,” the suit reads. “In ‘All Sea’ the male teen is remanded to the custody of a father figure, who picks the teen up and  confronts him about stealing from people, saying, ‘Let’s get this outta the way.’ In ‘The Girls’ the female teen’s father picks her up and relaxes after confronting her about stealing
from people ‘[l]ike he’d gotten something out of they way.’ The comparisons between The Girls Girls and Reetz-Laiolo’s stolen script go on.”

Reetz-Laiolo’s suit, which seeks unspecified damages, alleges copyright infringement and other counts.

Meanwhile, Cline filed her own suit against Reetz-Laiolo on Wednesday, calling his copyright infringement claims “frivolous” and accusing him of trying to “extract millions of dollars by intimidation and threat.”

“Emma Cline (‘Cline’) brings this action to put a stop to an escalating campaign by her abusive ex-boyfriend (aided by his counsel at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP) to extract millions  of dollars by intimidation and threat, all under the auspices of frivolous claims of copyright infringement, a long-stale complaint that Cline ‘invaded’ his privacy, and a ludicrous theory that she hacked into and stole unpublished written work from his computer,” Cline’s lawsuit reads.

Cline’s suit also alleges that that Reetz-Laiolo has “embarked on a two-year assault on Cline’s mental health and literary reputation.”

Cline’s complaint also gets personal, alleging that Reetz-Laiolo had carried on a sexual relationship with an ex-lover while seeing Cline and accusing him of domestic violence.

“Both during and after Reetz-Laiolo and Cline’s period of cohabitation, Reetz- Laiolo abused, threatened, and harassed Cline,” Cline’s lawsuit reads. “Reetz-Laiolo’s conduct both caused bodily injury to Cline and placed her in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury. This included, during the period of their cohabitation, Reetz-Laiolo’s berating and belittling Cline,
punching walls, smashing dishes, breaking furniture, destroying Cline’s possessions, and on multiple occasions locking Cline out of their shared apartment.”

Cline’s suit is seeking an “award of compensatory, statutory, and punitive damages against Defendant in an amount exceeding $75,000.”

In a statement to TheWrap, Ted Normand, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner, which represents Reetz-Laiolo, said, “In her response, Ms. Cline does not dispute that she repeatedly hacked into our clients’ accounts for years. We believe that the numerous similarities between Reetz-Laiolo’s unpublished manuscripts and The Girls render it indisputable that Ms. Cline illicitly accessed those manuscripts while hacking his accounts, and are confident that the Court will quickly find in our favor.”

TheWrap has reached out to Cline’s attorney for comment.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.