January 29, 2014 8:05am PT by Eriq Gardner
Lionsgate Goes to War Over 'Twiharder' Movie
Lionsgate and its Summit Entertainment subsidiary are now involved in a legal fight over Twiharder, a film described by its makers as a feature-length comedic spoof of the Twilight franchise.
The lawsuit has been playing out since last May when Behind the Lines Productions filed a $500 million antitrust claim against Lionsgate. On Monday, the case wrote its latest chapter when Lionsgate brought counterclaims alleging that Twiharder constitutes copyright and trademark infringement.
Over the years, the Twilight rights-holders have been fiercely protective of their intellectual property, targeting among other things, Twilight toiletries, a Bella Swan jacket, Rob Pattinson T-shirts, a documentary about Forks, Washington, music "inspired" by the film and Twilight.com. This, though, marks the first time that Lionsgate/Summit has filed legal claims against a film holding itself out to be a parody.
To some extent, Behind the Lines Productions brought on this fight.
Last year, the production company filed a 219-page lawsuit that spoke about the defendant's aggressive intellectual property efforts and made the case that Lionsgate was abusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and violating federal antitrust law. Specifically, Twiharder producers were upset that a cease-and-desist had caused them to lose insurance and distributors.
If a lengthy complaint (which among other things noted how Twilight was criticized by civil-rights activists) wasn't sufficiently out-of-the-ordinary, then came more oddness: After Lionsgate brought a motion to transfer to California, the lawsuit was dropped. Then re-filed. Then dropped again. Then moved to California. Some news outlets were confused and covered "new" lawsuits again and again.
Besides some procedural madness, though, not much happened until the counterclaims this week, which in a coincidental bit of timing, happened just as Congress heard testimony over whether copyright "fair use" rules needed adjusting.
Behind the Lines has described Twiharder as a film that "portrayed hyper-exaggerated caricatures from The Twilight Saga movies and lampooned expressive elements embodied in Defendants’ pre-existing works through imitative reference."
Lionsgate, on the other hand, says Twiharder is based on the plotlines and characters of its own franchise. After screening it, Lionsgate says it "did not allay Summit's fears but, instead, confirmed its belief that the motion picture and its related promotional artwork infringed Summit's copyrights in and related to the Twilight Motion Pictures and that Plaintiff's use of Twiharder as the title of its motion picture and on merchandise was likely to confuse consumers..."
The lawsuit figures to explore the legal boundaries of a supposed parody and examine whether Twiharder's title and promotion exploited Twilight's value or had genuine artistic relevance.