June 21, 2013 2:01pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Movie Producer Looks to Slay 'Dungeons and Dragons' Lawsuit
Wasting no time in defending a lawsuit over Dungeons and Dragons film rights, Courtney Solomon's Sweetpea Entertainment has already filed a motion for summary judgment.
It was just a month ago that Hasbro filed a lawsuit in California federal court. Upon news that Sweetpea was possibly working with Warner Bros. in developing a film based on Chainmail, a board game from Dungeons & Dragons designer Gary Gygax, Hasbro wanted a declaration that it owns rights to the property and sought an injunction to stop the film.
Sweetpea is now rolling the dice that the end-game is nigh.
Hasbro admitted in the lawsuit that Sweetpea acquired rights to the property by an agreement in 1994 and that Solomon produced a 2000 theatrical film and some TV films thereafter. But the the toy company contended that "Sequel Rights have reverted to Hasbro" based upon a five-year reversion clock.
Sweetpea, represented by Patty Glaser's law firm, looks to kill that claim by arguing in a summary judgment motion this week that Hasbro was required to serve written notice of the potential termination with opportunity to cure.
"Hasbro has never provided written notice of its intent to terminate the license, nor has Hasbro provided Sweetpea an opportunity to cure, and therefore Sweetpea is still licensed under the license agreement," says the motion for summary judgment (read in full here).
In addition, Hasbro is claiming damages for copyright infringement for the coming film.
In response, Sweetpea makes the case that there's a fatal flaw in this claim.
"To establish a prima facie case of copyright infringement, a plaintiff needs to juxtapose the specific elements of a copyrighted work with an infringing work," says Sweetpea's motion. "Here, Hasbro merely alleges that Sweetpea is in 'discussions' to produce a Dungeons & Dragons sequel based on a script entitled Chainmail. Even though Hasbro admits it received a copy of the Chainmail script, there is no evidence that Chainmail—or any other work— contains specific elements that are also present in any Hasbro copyrighted work. In fact, there is no evidence of any copyrighted work. Instead, Hasbro merely refers in the complaint to 1500 copyrights without specifying which ones allegedly are infringed."
It's not unheard of for people in the movie industry to get sued for copyright infringement before production of a film finishes. For instance, in a lawsuit that was brought during last year's Toronto Film Festival and later settled, the producers of a planned eco-terrorism film were sued for infringing a literary property.
But the defendants in this case say that Hasbro at least has an obligation to spell out the alleged substantial similarities between one work and the next. (Hasbro has been reported to have licensed a Dungeons & Dragons reboot to Universal.) As the motion puts it, "It is not sufficient for Hasbro to argue that the mere idea of a sequel to the Dungeons & Dragons movie infringes Hasbro’s copyrights."
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