Lions Gate Files Copyright and Trademark Counterclaims over Twilight Spoof

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. has filed copyright and trademark counterclaims against the producers of a Twilight parody film.

The Twilight movie series, based on the hyper-popular novels by Stephanie Meyer, was produced by Lions Gate subsidiary Summit Entertainment and has earned over $3.3 billion worldwide.

Between the Lines Productions LLC, producers of the spoof film Twiharder, had previously sued Lions Gate for antitrust violations.  The 219-page complaint charged that Lions Gate and Summit engaged in “ridiculous-to-insane overreaches of intellectual property law.”

The Lions Gate counterclaim alleges that the Between the Lines “use of the ‘Twilight’ motion pictures … in the absence of a valid license agreement …. would constitute copyright infringement.”  It also includes state and federal causes of action for trademark infringement, false designation of origin, unfair competition, and trademark dilution.

Between the Lines has claimed that several major distributors had expressed interest in distributing Twiharder, but that they immediately lost interest after Between the Lines received a “cease and desist” letter from Lions Gate.  The film’s budget is estimated at $3 million.

The antitrust complaint alleges that Lions Gate tried to “monopolize the conversation” about Twilight via “oppressive” IP enforcement using “sham” cease-and-desist notices.

Lions Gate and its subsidiary Summit Entertainment have sought to have the antitrust case dismissed.

According to the Urban Dictionary, “Twihards” are “Stupid obsessive people (mostly teenage girls) who are ‘in love’ with fictional characters and wouldn’t know a good book if it punched them in the face.”

The dispute will likely turn on the issue of whether Twiharder constitutes a “parody,” which is considered “fair use” under US copyright law and thus not copyright infringement.

Courts distinguish between parodies (which poke fun at the work being parodied) and satires (which use elements of a copyrighted work to poke fun at something else).  Parodies are more likely than satires to be considered fair use.

Stay up-to-date on the latest Intellectual Property Law news from Sheldon Mak & Anderson.

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