Musician Sues After Studio Shuts Down 'Twilight' Tribute (Exclusive)
An Ohio musician with ambitious plans to have his music heard by fans of The Twilight Saga is now suing the film's distributor, Summit Entertainment, for standing in his way.
Matthew Smith, who works under the moniker Matt Heart, created a song entitled "Eternal Knight" in 2002. This past November, Heart engaged in a bold marketing campaign to connect the song to new audiences. He posted the song on YouTube and sold it via iTunes, CD Baby, Amazon and other sites. Most audaciously, he says he negotiated to distribute and promote the song in various movie theaters for 28 weeks, hoping to reach an estimated 5 million viewers via an agreement with Screen Vision, which sells ads in theaters around the nation.
But Heart got into trouble when he commissioned a CD cover for "Eternal Knight" indicating it was inspired by the Twilight Saga. The cover art shows a moon and uses a similar typeface to that of Twilight's movie poster.
The move caught the eye of Summit's legal department, which alerted YouTube, iTunes, Amazon and others to alleged infringement of its intellectual property. Heart's song was removed from those outlets.
Heart and Summit's legal counsel then e-mailed each other, with Summit lawyer Regan Pederson telling him that "YouTube's digital infrastructure does not differentiate between copyright infringement and trademark infringement," but that Summit was concerned about the trademark violation and had thus initiated a takedown. Pederson wrote Heart that absent the Twilight mark, Heart could repost his music so long as there was no reference whatsoever to Summit's intellectual property.
Heart now claims in his lawsuit, filed yesterday, that Summit misrepresented its legal rights and that the song couldn't have infringed Twilight since it was written and copyrighted first. He's suing Summit for fraud, misrepresentation, infliction of emotional distress, tortious interference, and defamation for allegedly getting in the way of his contractual agreements on the song. He wants at least $75,000 in damages.
Heart isn't the first to kick up a legal fuss over a takedown. See the Stephanie Lenz saga. But the case of the entrepreneurial musician against the protective studio is certainly a strange one that could provoke an interesting legal response. In the meantime, we've reached out to Summit and we'll update if we hear anything.
Eriq can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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