White Wolf sues Sony over the movie "Underworld"

MEG Hal

First Post
WHITE WOLF, INC. and author NANCY A. COLLINS sue SONY PICTURES, SCREEN GEMS and LAKESHORE ENTERTAINMENT for "Underworld" copyright infringement

Atlanta, GA, 5 September 2003—White Wolf, Inc. and Nancy A. Collins yesterday filed suit in US District court in Atlanta, Georgia against defendants Sony Pictures, Screen Gems and Lakeshore Entertainment, alleging 17 counts of copyright infringement for the film Underworld, set for release on September 19. White Wolf alleges that Underworld characters, theme and setting are based on White Wolf’s award winning games Vampire: The Masquerade® and Werewolf: The Apocalypse™, both set in White Wolf’s fictional World of Darkness®. Further, Collins alleges that Underworld’s script is based on her 1994 story Love of Monsters, published by White Wolf and also set in the World of Darkness.

Plaintiffs claim over 60 points of unique similarity between Underworld and their work. "Ours is a huge fictional world, supported by over 200 volumes of fictional material," asserts Mike Tinney, White Wolf’s President. "It’s infuriating to see Underworld’s script riddled with our property." Plaintiffs also claim that Underworld’s entire plot is based on Collins’ short story Love of Monsters. "Apparently they are marketing this as a remake of Romeo and Juliet," comments Collins. "What I think they really mean is that it’s an on-screen adaptation of my story."

White Wolf and Collins are seeking immediate injunctive relief and damages. "The volume of confusion in our marketplace is amazing," observes Tinney, "our fans think they’re going to be seeing our film. Of course, if the movie gets released, in a way they will be."

Please direct press inquiries to:
for White Wolf: R. Schaeffer, 404-292-1819 x200
for Collins: Pamela Koslyn, 310-271-1833; or Nancy A. Collins, 678-637-2407
 

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Wombat

First Post
Given how long I've been seeing info on this film...

...why are they just filing suit now? Why not, say, four+ months ago?

Then again, I am not a huge fan of WoD and I am not planning to see the film, so it don't make no nevermind to me ;)
 



ForceUser

Explorer
Go get 'em, White Wolf. I'd be pissed too. Even from a 30 second TV commerical, I could see the elements of World of Darkness.

That said, it looks like a cool movie.
 

Ranger REG

Explorer
If White Wolf wins, we won't see the movie and Kate Beckinsale.

Personally, I'd rather White Wolf ride on the movie's success rather than trying to impose an injunction if it goes to court, but I think they believe the movie won't be that great as Kindred: The Embraced.

And as much as I want Sony to challenge the claim of infringement (we don't know if there is an actual infringement under the IP law), I think they're going to settle this out-of-court. That means, White Wolf gets richer.
 

Valiantheart

First Post
So...what White Wolf was the first company to put Vampires against Werewolves? Somebody better go round up Dracula vs the Wolfman and the Howling 5 quick before WW sues over their "original" idea.

This is like Bram Stoker suing Anne Rice for writing about vampires.
 

Wombat said:
...why are they just filing suit now? Why not, say, four+ months ago?

They may have gone the usual route. Lawyer sends a letter, waits for response. 30 days later, lawyer sends another letter, waits for response. In the interim, the studio lawyers open the file and fire off a letter back saying nothing. Rinse, repeat for two months.

But even if they didn't, say WW and the author draft and file their suit. Depending on jurisdiction, you have anywhere from 21 to 90 days to then serve the S&C. If you're giving it to a sheriff or a civil process server, they might take up to 5 weeks to perfect service. Then there's a variable length of time to file an answer and appearance. Four months is common. Now, I haven't read the article yet. I might be way off. :D

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. I'm a litigation claims adjuster. This is not legal advice. Do not confuse legal advice with common sense either. ;)
 

Cedric

First Post
There is a really good reason for them to sue Sony now and not earlier. If they sued Sony when the movie was announced, before the marketing money was spent, Sony could delay the project indefinitely and bog this down in litigation.

At this point, it's really too late for Sony to just cancel or delay the movie. They are going to have to cough up some money to White Wolf, most likely in the form of a settlement out of court.

Cedric
 

AeroDm

First Post
Sounds good to me.

Sony has already made the movie, so they'll pay out and send it to the theatres. I'll see it, enjoy it.

Sony will make a lot of money from it.

White wolf will get some cash that sony thinks is nothing but matters to White Wolf.

Everyone wins. I lose $7.50, Sony and White Wolf make a lot of money.
 

Jehosephat

First Post
ForceUser said:
Go get 'em, White Wolf. I'd be pissed too. Even from a 30 second TV commerical, I could see the elements of World of Darkness.

That said, it looks like a cool movie.

IMO, every vampire movie made in the last 20 years has elements of World of Darkness. Likewise, many of the stereotypes used in WOD aren't exactly WW originals. I see alot of cliches being used.
 

reiella

First Post
More or less, and the more I look at the sources/inspirations lines in the WhiteWolf World of Darkness books, the more it becomes kinda oddly obvious that they are hardly unique. That said, from what I've read so far, the suit is possibly more so on a story that practically mirrors on they had published beforehand. Will wait to see more information come out though.
 



Frankly, anyone who is leaping to the conclusion that this suit is frivolous--or to the opposite conclusion, that Sony is a bunch of thieves--needs to seriously slow down, take a deep breath, and try to gather some real information before drawing their lines in the sand.

WW isn't suing because the movie uses vampires and werewolves. That would be a no-brainer. They are claiming 17 specific counts of copyright infringement, and 60 specific points of overlapping details. To simply assume that their case is flawed or frivolous, when none of us know what those details are, is foolish. Ditto to assume that Sony knowingly stole the material. Even if it turns out to be plagiarized, odds are most of the Sony execs have never even heard of White Wolf, and the responsible party is a screenwriter or three.

Until and unless we actually learn what the specific points of conention are--and all we know so far is they include, among other things, similarities to one of Nancy Collins' published stories--casting blame is just an exercise in futility.
 

Charwoman Gene

Adventurer
If there are distinct "tribes" of Werewolves, "clans" of vampires, and werewolves have the least bit of eco-terrorism in them... not so frivolous...
 

Klaatu B. Nikto

First Post
Previous possibly frivolous lawsuits, which most probably know about were:

Viacom suing White Wolf because of the similarity between the Aeon RPG and Aeon Flux cartoon thus the namechange to Trinity.
Todd MacFarland suing Palladium Books because of the similarity between the Nightspawn RPG and Todd's Spawn thus the namechange to Nightbane.
Shelton 'Spike' Lee suing Viacom for the name change of TNN to Spike TV. Settled out of court I think since Spike TV is on the air.

Now this lawsuit may be more legit unless there's a lot of coincidences. Like others have said, I'd want more concrete proof before deciding which side is in the wrong.
 
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reapersaurus

First Post
mouseferatu - that was a nice breath of fresh common sense and propriety thrown into this thread.
But don't you know? Internet message boards are not for guarded concerns and cautiousness -they're for disseminating wild statements and jumping to conclusions where there is very little facts. :rolleyes:

Here's my opinion:
IF.. I repeat IF Underworld is as close in similarity to WW's world as it LOOKS like it is, than I say Good job, WW for standing up to Sony for not even bothering to give you any credit for something so shamelessly taken from your inspiration.

WW is not just "about vampires and werewolves" - there is a particular urban style and particular plot points about the relationships of the clans and vampires and werewolves that I'm shocked that Sony tried to (perhaps) lift without even so much as a hint of "based on" or "inspired by" and the like.

Almost every slightly-knowledegable gamer I can think of, after seeing the trailer to Underworld, IMMEDIATELY thought "White Wolf", or "Vampire: the Masquerade" etc. The similarity doesn't appear to be just surface, same-genre stuff.

In fact, (on the surface) I can't think of a more blatant-copyright infraction in major media source material in a long time...

I think it was colossaly arrogant of Sony to throw a movie like Underworld out there and not talk to WW about it, or expect everyone to look over to WW and say, Hey - you gonna do something about this?"

That all said, I am REALLY looking forward to Underworld and hope it's very successful.
 

jdavis

First Post
You'd be suprised at how much of this stuff happens and gets caught before it becomes a mess. Just because every gamer saw the promo and thought White Wolf, I'm sure that most Sony executives didn't have a clue. You would have to go back to the actual screenplay writer to know for sure, as big as World of Darkness is in gaming it's just not all that big a deal in the general public, it's just that crazy game where people dress up like vampires. If they can produce a previously existing short story that is the same or very similar to the storyline of the movie then this isn't a frivolous lawsuit, being as the movie is not out yet it would be imposible for any of us to make that call yet.

As far as why it took them so long to sue, well how could they sue over "17 counts of copyright infringement" and "over 60 points of unique similarity" unless they had had time to review the film, if they have that many direct points then how could they get them unless they had reviewed the material, and how could they review the material before they knew it existed. Lets face it how would they have known if there was infringement before they were infringed upon? If they never saw the script before it was made then how would they know to check to see if it was a match for one of their old short stories? They probably saw the film preview like the rest of us and decided to look into it. Once again that's only speculation as we don't even know half the story here.
 

reapersaurus

First Post
Just for a lark:
Here's the exact text for Underworld on my local paper's Entertainment page: http://www.sacticket.com/cgi-bin/ticketclub/ticketclub.cgi?app=4
"Underworld" reimagines vampires as a secretive clan of modern, aristocratic sophisticates whose mortal enemies are the Lycans (werewolves), a shrewd gang of street thugs who prowl the city’s underbelly. The balance of power is upset when a beautiful young vampire and a nascent Lycan fall in love.
Naw, that's not "reminiscent" of a particular game, is it? ;)
 

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