White Wolf sues Sony over the movie "Underworld"

TheAuldGrump

First Post
jdavis said:
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.

Nor is it completely beyond the realms of possibility that there is some accidental plagarism.

Two examples that come to mind: Beast from 20,000 Fathoms stole a scene from Ray Bradbury's The Lighthouse... then hired Ray Bradbury to write the script. (Ray Bradbury thought that the producer had him and the story linked together in his mind, but coudn't remember why...)

David Gerrold admits to accidently pilfering the idea of Tribbles from Hienlen's The Rolling Stones

On the other hand people familiar with Harlan Ellison may recall his suit over the show Future Cop, in which case the plagarism was deliberate, and substantiated in court...

Myself, I haven't seen the movie, it is possible that both the studio and White Wolf pilfered from the same sources....

The Auld Grump
 

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Ranger REG

Explorer
jdavis said:
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.
Well, if that screenplay writer knowingly lifted elements from the pages of White Wolf's copyrighted work, then yeah, Sony is going to be in legal trouble. That's why such a thing should go to trial to determine by court rulling who is the guilty party: Sony for infringing on White Wolf's work, or White Wolf for bring this frivolus lawsuit to court and waste the judge's time?

Can't help but to remind folks about the legal debacle when FOX Cable Netowrk tried to sue Al Franken for infringement of their trademark -- "Fair and Balanced" -- which Al uses it as part of his book title: Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. :p
 

Kahuna Burger

First Post
reapersaurus said:
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.

I think this is a good point. When I saw the trailer, I didn't think it was a blade sequel. I didn't think it was a buffy movie. It had some stylistic elements in common with xmen or LXG but clearly darker. I'm only peripherally aware of WOD, but even the peripheral feel is far more similar to the trailer vibe than any other vampire/pulp horror franchise I'm aware of.

Here's a comparison point. I hadn't heard starship troopers was being made into a movie before I saw the trailer in the theater. I realized within seconds what the movie was, well before any explicit IP was mentioned. (I'd read the book once several years before). Now even with the whole damn movie on display, if it had been named "Bug Squad" and changed a few minor details, there would be a parade of posters, likely on this very site, explaining that it had as much in common with aliens as troopers, that there were plot points from the book not recreated, that the love angle with the trooper and the spacer was drawn from romeo and juliet, that heinlien was just inspired by X Y and Z anyway...

So if enough people are getting the "vibe" from just the trailer, and can honestly say its not the exact same way they felt about Blade, or the teasers for Angel's new season, my instinct is to root for WW until further info emerges.

Kahuna Burger
 

Villano

First Post
Klaatu B. Nikto said:
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.


To add to the list:

After Jim Shooter was forced out of Valient/Acclaim comics, he started another company. I can't recall the name of it, but one of the books they released was a sci-fi title called Warriors Of Plasm.

After several issues were already out, Marvel released a book called Plasmer and then sued Shooter. I'm not sure how they managed to sue considering their book came after, but they did. The whole thing was obviously aimed at crippling Shooter's company out of the gate (and the fact that people at Marvel who worked with Shooter hate his guts personally probably helped).

Anyway, it got tossed out of court, but Shooter didn't have much time to celibrate as his company went under awhile later. Marvel's Plasmer disappeared shortly thereafter and hasn't been seen since. Odd that. :rolleyes:

Speaking of Marvel, they also sued Dark Horse comics over the comic X. I can sort of understand Marvel being protective of the "X" being associated with the X-Men, but the case was thrown out due to the simple fact that you can't copyright a letter (and that they couldn't prove Dark Horse was aping X-Men since the character was so different).

Marvel also sued whomever is producing the Mutant X series. Unlike the Dark Horse case, this one definitely has merit. Dark Horse's X was a grim vigilante without any connection in any way, shape, or form to mutants. The title, Mutant X, OTOH, just screams, "X-Men!". And am I the only one who thinks they cast actors due to their resemblance to the cast of the film?

I believe they settled out of court and Marvel now has a credit in the series.

Another Marvel suit (I'm detecting a trend here :)), occurred against wrestler Hulk Hogan. Yes, Marvel claims that the word "hulk" is their property. Hogan settled and has to pay royalties everytime he uses his name. In fact, if you look at any wrestling video game he appears in, you can see that "Hulk Hogan" is the "property of Marvel Comics".

I doubt that Hogan is thrilled with this and has used other names on and off over the years ("Hollywood" Hogan and Mr. America).

DC probably filed the most famous comics-related lawsuit when they sued Fawcett. They claimed that Captain Marvel was too similar to Superman.

For those who don't know, Superman is an alien from the planet Krypton who, disguised as Clark Kent, works for the newspaper, The Daily Planet. Captain Marvel is a young boy named Billy Batson who says the magic word "Shazam" and is turned into an adult with the powers of the gods.

The similarities are mind boggling! :rolleyes:

Actually, the only things they have in common is that they both wear capes, fly, and have black hair. Oh, and Billy works at a radio station (radio station, newspaper, the same thing). And the fact that Capt. Marvel was outselling Superman probably had nothing to do with it.

One final weird lawsuit was Mattel suing Todd MacFarlane over his toy company. Originally, it was called Todd's Toys. However, Barbie has a little brother named Todd and Mattel claimed that it would confuse children.

A line of gross, disfigured zombie and monster toys and Barbie's little brother? Yeah, I can see how the little girls that collect Barbie wouldn't be able to distinguish between the two.

BTW, did anyone here even know that Barbie had a little brother or what his name was?
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Hm. Two threads. To which does one go to post one's $0.02...?

We out here in the public don't have sufficient information about the movie to know if the suit is frivolous. Making judgements now, based on so little data is.. well, it's dumb. If and when you have to go into court, would you prefer the judge and jury make up their minds based upon a press release or two, or would you prefer them to work on the actual evidence?

As for why now? I'd think that's pretty simple...

1)The legal proces takes time, as others have said. WW must first learn the content of the movie to make their list of 60 items. Then there are multiple hopps they have to jump through, as others have said. This all takes time.

2)Advertising. If you start the legal stuff to early on, people will forget it by the time the movie actually opens. I'd expect the advertising angle is considerable. From Sony's side, the extra press will tend to bring gamers to the movie to find out what all the hubbub was about. From WW's side, it will tend to increase awareness among the audience that there is a game in which one can play through such stories - not a bad way to sell off the old stock before having the Apocalypse, hm? And that's before we consider if there's actual infringement on IP.
 

reapersaurus

First Post
*leaping back into this thread*

Umbran - I was wondering if anyone else would go there (the advertising angle).
Yeah, ignoring the IP and timing issues, there is an aspect of this that could be beneficial to both sides. Especially since the only way to know whether there was infringement is to know about WW's products (presumably buying them) AND see the movie.

While I don't think that Sony is that subtle and ingenious to partner with WW in a promotional lawsuit to spur interest in both company's products, it is interesting to ponder.

I think it's WAY more likely that Sony just mined WW for the source material, and didn't want to pay for it, since they are WAY bigger than little WW.

And Occam's Razor cuts so deep... ;)
 


Green Knight

First Post
S'mon said:
That blurb is just Romeo & Juliet with vampires & werewolves. I'm sure there's a lot more to the suit than just 'it has competing gangs of vampires & werewolves', if they expect to get anywhere.

That's what it sounds like to me. The Montagues and Capulets have been replaced by Vampires and Werewolves. I'm not a huge fan of WW or anything, so take this with a grain of salt, but I don't remember any deep underlying theme about star-crossed lovers or whatever. Then again, part of the suit apparently revolves around a writer who wrote such a story. But then again, how original is her story idea? I mean, really. Again, it hearkens back to Romeo & Juliet. Is the idea so original that no one else could have thought about it? Having vampires and werewolves at war, with a vampire in love with a werewolf? And in this case, they're Lycans, not Werewolves. From what I understand, aren't we talking about more than just Werewolves? If so, then that's different than White Wolf, which has different breeds of Werewolf, but not so much different breeds of Lycanthrope.

Eh, I don't care either way whether Sony's right or White Wolf is. Just felt like pointing out that Romeo & Juliet isn't exactly the freshest plotline around. As they say, "there's nothing new under the sun".
 

What I'm surprised no one's brought up is that in the WoD, werewolves are hardly the archenemies of vampires as they are arranged in this movie. Werewolves hate vampires, but they hate all things that are of the Wyrm. And vampires are a little busy fighting each other. Werewolves and Vampires generally fight each other when their paths cross, but it's not like there's a "Secret Lupine War Room" in Camarilla HQ or something.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but the impression I got from the previews was that, unless they have the whole Wyrm vs. Wyld angle, the conflict in Underworld seems to be quite different from the one in the WoD.
 

FraserRonald

Explorer
TheAuldGrump said:
On the other hand people familiar with Harlan Ellison may recall his suit over the show Future Cop, in which case the plagarism was deliberate, and substantiated in court...

I hadn't heard of that one, but Harlan also had to go to court twice to get recognition for "Soldier" (his story not the movie) as the inspiration for Terminator, even though James Cameron admitted as much on the set to a reporter from Starlog. Mr. Ellison had to return to court because at one point, his credit at the end (way, way at the end) had been removed. Nice.
 

Klaatu B. Nikto

First Post
Wandering offtopic now

The Hulkster reminded me of another. WWE also had a 'blood drinking' vampire themed wrestler named Gangrel, which was licensed from White Wolf.

Since the World Wildlife Fund now has the rights to WWF, I think any wrestling game that had WWF now has to change or get sued (or something equally idiotic).

IIRC, Stephen King sued those who made Lawnmower Man to have his name removed from the credits.

Back to the topic, I bet that anyone with animosity towards White Wolf and the pretentiousness associated with them will have 'em going rabid. The White Wolf boards would probably be the opposite.
 

Villano

First Post
QUOTE=Klaatu B. Nikto]The Hulkster reminded me of another. WWE also had a 'blood drinking' vampire themed wrestler named Gangrel, which was licensed from White Wolf.QUOTE]
:)
I first heard of the wrestler before the White Wolf clan, but I honestly can't recall anyone at the WWF ever refer to White Wolf.:) It seems bizarre that that they would use the name as a cross-promotion without mentioning the source.
:)
Since the World Wildlife Fund now has the rights to WWF, I think any wrestling game that had WWF now has to change or get sued (or something equally idiotic).
:)
They way I understood it, World Wildlife had the rights to WWF overseas (in Europe, I think).:) They made a deal with MacMahon that they wouldn't sue him as long as he didn't promote the World Wrestling Federation with the initials "WWF" there.:) MacMahon agreed and then turned around and did it anyway.:):) I have no sympathy for him since he brought the lawsuit on himself.
:)
The suit screwed up all the rebroadcasts that had the little "WWF" in the corner of the screen.:) If you see any old clips, they have to blur them out.
:)
As a funny aside, I heard that someone was refused entrance to a WWE show because he had a World Wildlife shirt with "WWF" emblazened in huge letters on it.:) And they say Vince doesn't hold grudges. LOL
:)
Anyway, he was eventually allowed in.:) I think they made him turn the shirt inside out or something.:)
:)
IIRC, Stephen King sued those who made Lawnmower Man to have his name removed from the credits.
:)
I think he got his name off Sleepwalkers, too.
:)
And the woman who wrote the original Beastmast book sued to get her name removed.:) I read the novel and it is totally different.:) In fact, it's sci-fi with aliens and such.
:)
If she was upset by the changes in the first movie, I wonder how she felt about the horrible sequels?:)
:)
I'm not sure if she did manage to get her name off, but her name was on the recent tv series.:) I guess she can't complain too much since she's getting royalties.
 

Villano

First Post
Um...What the heck happened to my above post? Seriously, I did not type in a bunch of smiley faces.

I'm not going to edit it, though. It just looks so weird, I love it! LOL.

The only strange thing that happened is it took me 3 tries to post it. I kept getting a "page cannot be found" message after I sent it. I have no idea how that results in a million smiley faces...
 

reapersaurus

First Post
S'mon said:
That blurb is just Romeo & Juliet with vampires & werewolves.
Respectfully... No, it isn't.

I'll post everything again, except the last sentence:
"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."

If you don't see how that infringes on WW's territory (not to mention the incredibly insulting "reimagines" aspect), than I'm afraid you haven't been seeing what WW's been doing for over 10 years.

BTW: Did any other writer before WW envision vampires as a "secretive clan of modern, aristocratic sophisticates"? along with clans that had certain characteristics, etc? Clans being the major aspect I'm wondering about, not the secretive part.
 


Psychotic Dreamer

First Post
Over on RPG.net a member, Funksaw, went through and wrote up the main points of the PDF. I have attached the list as a text file. I have not read through them all, but there are a lot of things. However some are... odd. I would say it does look like White Wolf has a good chance of getting a settlement of some kind with all of this evidence.
 

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  • WW-Underworld.txt
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Corinth said:
Here is your smoking gun. White Wolf has Sony dead to rights.

Yep. A lot of the claims are silly, since they come from mythology--vampires as superfast, silver against werewolves, etc. I'm guessing those were included to prop up the more viable claims.

And boy, some of those claims are pretty substantial. I saw several uses of exact terminology. "Abomination" and "embrace" are English words, sure, and so cannot be copyrighted in and of themselves. But their specific use, as (in order) a vampire-werewolf hybrid and the act of turning someone into a vampire, that particular use can legally be declared IP.

I wouldn't begin to lay money on how this is going to turn out. WW has a case, but I couldn't begin to guess if it's a strong enough case to win. I will say, however, that the case is easily strong enough to put the lie to any further claims of "frivolous lawsuits."
 

Klaatu B. Nikto

First Post
reapersaurus said:
BTW: Did any other writer before WW envision vampires as a "secretive clan of modern, aristocratic sophisticates"? along with clans that had certain characteristics, etc? Clans being the major aspect I'm wondering about, not the secretive part.

Possibly Blade from Marvel Comics. They did it in the movies, which may have been influenced by V:tM.

Vampire clans with certain characteristics were also used in the Soul Reaver series as the 'offspring' of Kain specialized in certain powers like one clan was no longer harmed by water and became aquatic, etc. Again, that may have been influenced by V:tM.
 

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