"Twilight" Zone: Producers of Parody Sue

The makers of a parody of the “Twilight” franchise have filed a whopping $500 million suit against Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment, claiming that they have engaged in “anti-competitive” conduct by abusing intellectual property law and squelching their efforts to find a distributor for their movie.

The suit, filed in federal court in New York, runs 219 pages and was filed by Between the Lines Prods., which made a parody called “Twiharder,” intended to coincide with the release of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn (Part Two).” It claims that a cease-and-desist letter sent by the defendants scared off potential distributors, even though legal advisers concluded that the makers of “Twiharder” were within their rights to go forward with their project under the terms of “fair use” doctrine.

The plaintiffs also claim that Lionsgate and Summit have registered more than a dozen names for the franchise with the trademark office, “thereby multiplying the universe of potential infringers exponentially.” They claim that the 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 December, Warner Bros. successfully stopped a parody of “The Hobbit” called “Age of Hobbits,” claiming that its release would create marketplace confusion in violation of trademark law. A judge agreed, ruling that the term “Hobbit” was unique to the J.R.R. Tolkien series.

The suit against Lionsgate, however, seems to claim that the mere cease-and-desist effort by Lionsgate and Summit’s legal team was enough to thwart off potential distributors and insurers.

In the suit, the makers of “Twiharder” say that “the unpredictability of the ‘Fair Use’ doctrine has granted Defendants an unfettered license to threaten scores of independent artists with generic, stock allegations of copyright infringement and trademark infringement.”

A spokesman for Lionsgate said they had no comment.

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