Sex, Plagiarism and Spyware. This Is Not Your Average Copyright Complaint.

Random House issued a statement in support of Ms. Cline, saying that “there is no basis to the plagiarism claims made by Mr. Reetz-Laiolo and we look forward to presenting our arguments in court.”


Patricia Wall/The New York Times

Her literary agent, Bill Clegg, called the legal dispute “heartbreaking and enraging” in a statement provided to The New York Times, and noted that Ms. Cline was already developing the themes and framework for “The Girls” before she met Mr. Reetz-Laiolo.

The complaint filed by Ms. Cline notes that many of the instances of overlapping phrases that Mr. Reetz-Laiolo contends were stolen from him are minimal and in some cases consist of only two words (like “heavy rear” and the word “Doomsville”). It argues that her use of spyware to read his emails was prompted by her suspicions that he was being unfaithful to her and not, as Mr. Reetz-Laiolo claims, as a way to surreptitiously read and copy his work. Ms. Cline’s lawyers have requested at least $75,000 in damages and asked that the copyright claims be dismissed.

The unusual and dramatic legal clash over “The Girls” is far from a standard copyright complaint. There are high-powered lawyers representing both parties, in a convoluted dispute that includes accusations of physical and emotional abuse and charges of digital spying and invasion of privacy.

Mr. Reetz-Laiolo is represented by Boies Schiller Flexner, which also represented the disgraced producer Harvey Weinstein and helped him in his efforts to quash the sexual harassment allegations against him. Ms. Cline’s team of lawyers includes Carrie Goldberg, a prominent lawyer and advocate who specializes in representing women who have been victims of harassment and “revenge porn,” or online sexual shaming. (Ms. Goldberg is also representing the actress Paz de la Huerta, who has accused Mr. Weinstein of raping her and is bringing a criminal case against him.)

The accusations leveled in Ms. Cline’s countersuit in many ways overshadow Mr. Reetz-Laiolo’s own claims that his intellectual property was taken, and suggest a pattern of intimidation, abuse and threats of public humiliation.

The countersuit details alleged abusive behavior by Mr. Reetz-Laiolo, including a claim that in 2012, after reading a text message on her phone that he interpreted as flirtatious, he held her…

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