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TWILIGHT Parody vs. Lionsgate and Summit: $500 Million Lawsuit

Twilight parody Twiharder John Gearries Christopher SeanTwilight parody $500-million lawsuit against Lionsgate Pictures and Summit Entertainment: Serious business (Image: John Gearries, Tanya Zoeller, Christopher Sean in Twiharder poster)

Twiharder, not the son of Twilight and Die Harder but just Another Twilight Parody, reportedly had a planned late 2012 release date to coincide with the release of Lionsgate Pictures / Summit Entertainment's own The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, the final installment in the Twilight movie franchise. But at the time, Summit / Lionsgate felt it would be unhealthy to have Kristen Stewart (as Bella Swan-Cullen), Robert Pattinson (as Edward Cullen), and Taylor Lautner (as Jacob Black) fighting off not only the mean-spirited Volturi, but also micro-budget parodists. As a result, a cease-and-desist letter was sent to the Twiharder producers at Between the Lines Prods.

But never say Die, Twiharder, Die! Like Dracula risen from the grave, they're back – at a less-Hollywood-friendly New York federal court, too, bringing with them a 219-page complaint and a demand for $500 million in damages from Lionsgate / Summit, whom they accuse of “anti-competitive” practices and abuse of intellectual property law, claiming that the Hollywood studio's cease-and-desist letter scared off potential distributors.

Twilight parody vs. Twilight: Fair Use Doctrine

According to EW, the lawsuit asserts that Twiharder clearly falls under the Fair Use Doctrine, which protects the rights of “independent filmmakers, parodists and other 'counter-cultural' artists who create separate or derivative works that may be related to, inspired by or comment upon the pop culture events that dominate the national Cineplex and, by extension the attitudes, perspectives and behaviors of the populace.”

And whether you love and/or hate Twilight and any or all of those associated with the literary / film series, you can't deny that the Stephenie Meyer-created romantic-fantasy tales have become a worldwide cultural phenomenon.

There's more to the Twiharder lawsuit: Between the Lines Prods. accuses Lionsgate / Summit of registering trademarks for more than a dozen Twilight-related names, “thereby multiplying the universe of potential infringers exponentially.” They claim that the studio's intent is “to utilize the 'tentpole' model as a leveraging mechanism to prop up a full-scale, 360-degree IP monopoly in which all the statutory rights granted by the Copyright Act simply become interchangeable with (and/or subsumed by) the statutory privileges granted by the Trademark Act.”

In other words, if you manage to get Fair Use Doctrine protection to create a Twilight-related work, you may still be infringing on Lionsgate / Summit's Trademark rights.

Recent The Hobbit precedent

Although Lionsgate / Summit may have been inspired by the Walt Disney Studios, which ferociously (and according to some, unjustly and unfairly) guards its properties, there have been other such fights in the past.

In fact, as recently as last December, Warner Bros. succeeded in halting the direct-to-DVD release of Joseph J. Lawson's parody Age of the Hobbits, claiming that it would have (very stupid?) people mixing it up with Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which hit the world's screens at that time. The key issue here was the name "Hobbit"; hence, Age of the Hobbits is now known as Clash of the Empires. (See also: "Disney Mickey Mouse Rights Questioned.")

Of course, if lawsuit comes to counterlawsuit, Lionsgate and Summit – especially following Gary Ross / Jennifer Lawrence's The Hunger Games and Breaking Dawn Part 2 – have enough cash to buy out the entire U.S. Justice System. The studio's fiscal 2013 revenue, for instance, topped $2.71 billion.

But things will likely not reach that far. After all, the Twilight movie franchise is a thing of the past; even if Twiharder finds any DVD distributors willing to make the parody available, it could have an even tougher time finding an audience than M. Night Shyamalan / Will Smith's After Earth.

And it remains to be seen whether or not Lionsgate / Summit will be willing to hand out any sort of compensation to Between the Lines Prods. Having said that, one thing is for certain: The $500-million lawsuit against the studio has brought infinitely more attention to Twiharder than it would have enjoyed merely by coming out at the same time as Breaking Dawn Part 2.

["Twilight Parody vs. Lionsgate Pictures and Summit Entertainment: $500 Million Lawsuit" continues in the next post. See link below.]

John Gearries, Tanya Zoeller, Christopher Sean in Twiharder poster: Between the Lines Prods.

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