The Girls Novelist Emma Cline Sued by ‘Abusive Ex Boyfriend’ for Plagiarism 

Image via Penguin Random House.

Writer Emma Cline has been sued by her ex-boyfriend, writer
Chaz Reetz-Laiolo, over her critically praised novel, The
. Reetz-Laiolo’s lawsuit claims that Cline
plagiarized her novel using spyware installed on his email and
other accounts. Cline filed a countersuit, describing
Reetz-Laiolo’s allegations as the “ludicrous” acts of an
“abusive ex-boyfriend.”

The Associated Press
that the two lawsuits, filed in a San Francisco
court on Wednesday, “made public a bitter fight that has been
churning behind the scenes for years.” Reetz-Laiolo contends
that Cline installed spyware on a computer that she
subsequently sold him. According to Reetz-Laiolo’s 620-page
lawsuit, Cline accessed his email and other accounts, mining
All Sea, a screenplay he was working on for The
. He alleges that Cline “systematically surveilled
his private email obsessively over a period of years.”
Reetz-Laiolo is represented by David Boies’s high-profile law
firm Boies Schiller Flexner. Boies
recently made headlines
for his involvement in concealing
Harvey Weinstein’s ongoing abuses of women. The firm did not
return a request for comment.

In Cline’s countersuit, she acknowledged that she had used
spyware to look into Reetz-Laiolo’s infidelity while the pair
were still in a relationship. Her lawsuit, however, contends
that she no longer had access to the spyware once the computer
was sold to Reetz-Laiolo. She further contends that
Reetz-Laiolo’s suit is “baseless,” arguing that there is no
evidence of plagiarism as alleged by her ex-boyfriend. The suit

At the outset of his campaign, Reetz-Laiolo manufactured a
tortured claim of copyright infringement based on an
allegation that a few brief snippets scattered through the
early drafts of Cline’s highly successful debut novel The
Girls originated with him. For many of the snippets,
Reetz-Laiolo has been unable to provide any documents showing
that they originated in his writings (often because the
snippets do not actually exist in any of his writings). With
regard to the few brief phrases or facts that do appear in
his work in some form, these are not subject to copyright
protection. Reetz-Laiolo has continued to press this claim
despite the fact that the challenged snippets do not appear
in the published version of The Girls.

According to Cline’s lawyers
, the lawsuit is a
thinly-veiled attempt by an “abusive ex-boyfriend,” 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.” On Twitter, Cline’s lawyer
Goldberg described
Reetz-Laiolo as a “controlling
ex-boyfriend who is using litigation as a weapon.” (Goldberg’s
firm did not file Cline’s countersuit).

Published in 2016, Cline’s novel was an instant hit. Set in the
late 1960s, The Girls follows 14-year-old Evie Boyd’s
immersion in a California cult, with clear references to
Charles Manson and his infamous family. The novel was both a
critical darling and a bestseller, quickly establishing Cline
has an important literary voice. According to Cline’s
countersuit, Reetz-Laiolo’s claims are the result of jealousy
over her success and are a groundless attempt to destroy her
literary reputation, part of what the Cline’s lawsuit describes
as a “two-year assault on Cline’s mental health and literary

Cline has asked the court for $75,000 in damages as well as
dismissal of copyright claims. Reetz-Laiolo, who also named
publisher Penguin Random House in his lawsuit, asks the
publisher to cease printing the book, as well as unspecified
damages. Random House did not return a request for comment.

Update: In a statement to Jezebel, Random
House said they “stands by” Cline and her book. “We firmly
believe that there is no basis to the plagiarism claims made by
Mr. Reetz-Laiolo and we look forward to presenting our
arguments in court.”

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