White Wolf sues Sony over the movie "Underworld"

Enforcer

Explorer
Alright, I'm not a lawyer, but I am currently in law school (for two whole weeks now!). If I were representing White Wolf, there's no way in hell I'd take on Sony with their gazillions of dollars unless I was pretty damn sure my client had a case. So, in my opinion, White Wolf probably has a pretty decent shot at this.

That being said, I'm sure that the end to all this will be Sony tossing some "go away" money at White Wolf and we'll never here anything else about it. Why fight a suit, even if you can win, if your legal fees will be more than the settlement?
 

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Ranger REG

Explorer
OTOH, do we have enough prior case rulings, or precedents, to better understand what infringement is, under the intellectual property law?
 

reapersaurus

First Post
Klaatu B. Nikto said:
Possibly Blade from Marvel Comics. They did it in the movies, which may have been influenced by V:tM.
I didn't follow the Blade comic close at all, but I REALLY don't think they had anything remotely close to clans like WW does.

Anyone else know of vampires being portrayed in clans with certain characteristics (leaders... beauty-lovers, etc) before WW came along and did it?

BTW: those documents are VERY interesting, and I agree that some are solely to pad the document (werewolves being hurt by silver), there are way more than enough to make it an open and shut case of copyright infringement. (IMO)

By the way - SPOILER!!!!!
There are spoilers in the legal documents - don't read if you don't want to know plot points of the movie.
 

Wormwood

Adventurer
The list of 'points of similarity' I just read (on the PDF) looks pretty weak to me.

I actually thought they may have a case before I read it.

Now I'm just hoping a reasonable judge gets assigned to this case so it can be dismissed before too much money is wasted.
 

Wormwood

Adventurer
mouseferatu said:
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.
<spoilers>
.
.

We still don't know the context in which those terms are used in the film.

For example, if the film specifically uses "Abomination" as a proper name for vamp/wolf hybrids, then WW scores a point. But if some character makes an off-handed remark like 'that thing is an abomination to our people', then WW is full of it.

The same may be said about the term "Embrace" (note that it is *not* capitalized in the compaint). If the filmmakers use "Embrace" as the accepted usage noun for vamping someone, then WW gets a point. But if 'embrace' is just a verb/stage-direction WW pulled out of the script, then it's just more weakness in their case.

Time will tell.
 
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Corinth

First Post
The film version of Blade doesn't resemble the comic much at all. The film version really does come down to Blade vs. The Camarilla; the comic version is more like Blade-as-Van Helsing.
 

jdavis

First Post
Villano said:
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.
:)

:)
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.:)
:)
WWF did pay for the name Gangrel, and in the videogames where he appeared White Wolf was given credit) I don't think it was ever intended to be a cross-promotional thing I just think the name sounded better than his old wrestling name of "Vampire Warrior". He's married to the female wrestler Luna Vashon if anybody actually cares (oh and he has been out of WWE for quite a while now).

The big World Wildlife thing had two big court cases, the first one is where world wrestling federation agreed to change their name to WWE after years of infighting with the World Wildlife Foundation. The second suit was for the WWF logo in old video games and it was tossed out (speaking of frivolous suits) and I do believe that WWE was actually awarded damages from the world wildlife federation on that one. There was a bunch of stuff and I don't remember the whole story but it basically came down to a certain person in the World Wildlife Federation tried to blackmale the WWE with the threat of forcing them to pull their video game library right before christmas shopping last year, of course all that was never actually proven but I do believe WWE was awarded damages in their countersuit. It's been a while since all that happened and I really don't remember any of the specifics off hand.

The first lawsuit was a blatent disregard for a agreement world wrestling federation had with the world wildlife federation and it was dragged out for years before they decided to just go ahead and change the name (like they should of done in the first place).
 

jdavis

First Post
Psychotic Dreamer said:
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.
I'd say about 50% crap and 50% actual evidence. Of course I would still say that without seeing the movie and reading the story it would be a hard call to just how blatent it is, but that does make for a very good case. Some of the points there (particularly the abomination stuff from the book) will be convincing enough to get this sent to trial (unless Sony settles). I went to look at the movie info at the Internet movie database and the people who wrote this movie have one other writing credit between the three of them and it was for a episode of "The Outer Limits" tv show.
http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0320691/fullcredits#writers
 

Kahuna Burger

First Post
mouseferatu said:
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.

I don't think they were silly, but I think they needed to be more clearly contrasted with the mythology points that both worlds ignored. That is, silver hurts werewolves, but wood doesn't hurt vampires. Vampires are superfast, but they don't change shape or become clouds of mist. Werewolves fight in hybrid form but they change whenever they want to. Vampires have a relationship with their 'sire' but they are visible in mirrors. The matter of whether some points of similarity are shared with other works isn't as relevant, (imho) as a consistant pattern of sharing both similarities and dissimilarities with "common knowlege".

Kahuna Burger
 

Tratyn Runewind

First Post
Hello,

For a company that made its name on "Anne-Rice-with-the-serial-numbers-scratched-off" to be suing anyone for IP theft is irony on a nigh-cosmic scale. The only game I've seen more blatant in its rip-offs is Immortal (Connor and Duncan MacLeod, call your attorneys - and look at the "Immortality" Merit in WW's Sorceror, while you're at it). The attitude comes straight from Rice and the Goth punk world, and the clans are a hodgepodge of historical vampire concepts and character class analogues - the Nosferatu are the original European conception of vampirism as disease and burial alive, mixed with a stealthy thief-like class, the Ventrue are the post-Stoker decadent and sensual nobles, Malkavians are modern horror-movie psycho killers with vampirism, Brujah are fighters, Gangrel rangers, and Tremere are wizards, and Toreador are bards styled to appeal to the drama-class types who wallow in the Goth sensibilities the game reeks with. Not only are the clan concepts themselves hardly WW originals, but mixing various vampire types was not exactly an innovation, either - see the early-'70's film Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter, for one story of a man hunting vampires who were divided into several breeds with differing strengths and weaknesses. The vampire-versus-werewolf conflict was also done in other forums; the horror comics of the '70's spring first to my mind, though I also remember episodic cable-tv horror serials of the '80's using the concept as well, and the concept in broad terms can be traced back as far as Abbot and Costello, at least. :)

So, the style predates WW, vampiric secrecy predates WW, varied vampire subtypes predate WW, the idea of mixing them predates WW, and the vampire-versus-werewolf conflict predates WW. What are they going to sue on? Were they sneaky enough to get themselves a perpetual copyright on Romeo and Juliet slipped into the DMCA? Unless Sony was dim enough to use actual V:TM clan names, I hope WW gets laughed out of court and counter-sued until they can't afford better than Maybellene for their black mascara. From the look of the movie so far, if anyone should be filing paper on Sony, it's Carrie-Anne Moss.

Originally Posted by Kahuna Burger:
I think they needed to be more clearly contrasted with the mythology points that both worlds ignored. That is, silver hurts werewolves, but wood doesn't hurt vampires. Vampires are superfast, but they don't change shape or become clouds of mist. Werewolves fight in hybrid form but they change whenever they want to. Vampires have a relationship with their 'sire' but they are visible in mirrors. The matter of whether some points of similarity are shared with other works isn't as relevant, (imho) as a consistant pattern of sharing both similarities and dissimilarities with "common knowlege".

The "mythology points" vary from region to region, and source to source. In many original myths, for example, wood DIDN'T particularly hurt vampires - the stakes were not used to kill them, but simply to pin them to the earth so they couldn't rise from the grave (presumably these vampires couldn't turn to mist, either...). And in Dracula, IIRC, sunlight didn't kill some vampires, but merely pained and weakened them a bit, and perhaps kept them from using certain of their powers. There is a large array of vampiric concepts, powers, and weaknesses to choose from, and WW certainly seems to be hoping to make a quick buck off the fact that the ones they thought would appeal to their customers are similar in some ways to the ones that Sony thought would appeal to theirs.

But hey, for those bored with folklore trivia and legal details, simply rent a copy of Big Trouble in Little China, watch it, read the section in WW's Book of Chantries on the "House of the Jade Demon", and laugh yourself sick at the depths of this WW's hubris and hypocrisy...
 


Mark Chance

Boingy! Boingy!
Wormwood said:
The list of 'points of similarity' I just read (on the PDF) looks pretty weak to me.

Quite weak. Every point of similiarity is either something that is from the "well duh" category (i.e., silver hurts werewolves), has been done before (i.e., werewolves changing form at will and fighting in hybrid form), has ample precedent in literature and other movies (i.e., vampires having the strength of 10 men [c.f., Bram Stoker] or a vampire's bite being linked to sensuality [c.f., just about everything other than Stoker]). The points of similiarity between the movie and Collins's work are easily explained by the fact that they both decided to rip-off the Bard.

It's copycats bringing suit against copycats. If I were Sony, I'd bury WW in years of legal tie-ups, crushing them into the ground with my millions and millions of dollars. Of course, I'm a bit mean-spirited at times. :D

But, at most, Sony will settle out of court. The settlement will be sealed from the public. Nothing will come from this other than that. No one will prove anything. WW will trumpet about their "victory" while continuing the point away from the fact that their own products are equally derivative and just as open to criticism via long lists of points of similiarity.
 

DMScott

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.

A role-playing game called Chill, originally by a company called Pacesetter (which I believe went belly up several years before White Wolf were formed), had different types of vampires with different abilities and social structures dependent on type. I don't know if any Chill products called them clans, but I certainly did when I played. I doubt Chill was the first to do so, just one I remember off the top of my head.

Only had time to read the first thirty or so pages of the complaint this morning, but I didn't see anything that changes my opinion that it's a pretty frivolous lawsuit. Maybe there's a smoking gun in the last half of the complaint, I'll give the rest a read tonight. I wouldn't be at all shocked if Sony settles in order to get the movie out as advertised, but that's more a function of the timing than anything else.
 

jdavis

First Post
The World of Darkness stuff is pretty weak but the the movie storyline and the book storyline are pretty much exactly the same thing and that is where they will get them, and don't give me the Romeo and & Juliet stuff as there was so much more going on in this that matches exactly. I mean you could go down the list and and the plot points for the movie matched the plot points for the book, they used several distinctive World of Darkness ideas such as the vampire coming out of torpor and the vampire/werewolf abomination (come on "a vampire/werewolf called a abomination which is hated by both sides" that's pretty much a sure give away it's been lifted from the book). I mean they pretty much went through and lifted the whole storyline from the book and just changed the genders of the two main characters.

I know that a lot of people seem to have some sort of grudge against White Wolf here by all the "I hope they get whats coming to them" type post but this really isn't something frivolous they have a pretty solid case as far as the book storyline goes, yes it's all a Romeo and Juliet spin but you could say the same for every movie ever made and every book ever written where two people fall in love but are not allowed to be with each other. And yes you can go into the fact that the whole World of Darkness is cobbled together with lots of previously existing material, but good grief what gaming system isn't. Just because they got bits and pieces from here and there doesn't take away from the fact that they put all these bits and pieces together and made a very compley vision out of it, it also doesn't take away the fact that it looks like every major plot point in the movie was taken from somebody elses published story.

The people who wrote the movie were not established screenwriters, this is their first script, it's a first time director and first time writers and they are also producing the movie and are also acting in the movie. This isn't some big budget Sony production, it's some under the radar production that Sony is involved in. Heck Kate Beckinsale is engaged to the director (whose past credits are: assistant props director for Independence Day and property assistant for Stargate). So these relatively unknown people show up with their first movie idea and want to write, direct, produce and act in the movie. Then the movie gets sued for stealing the storyline of a book as soon as ads for the movie start airing on TV, you got to wonder what exactly Sony's position on this will be?
 

reapersaurus

First Post
jdavis - good points, but I'd caution against going too far with it - It seems like you're pre-judging the case, the other way: you can't say they lifted "every plot point", because we've only read a sub-set of the plot points that happen to all be lifted from WW's material.

As for others: I can't believe that an intelligent fan of gaming and movies would look at that list, and go "eh - WW copied it all in the first place" or "there's nothing particularly there". I'd like to get some time to copy-paste some choice entries from the list (WITH SPOLIERS).
Basically, there are MANY dead-on copies and it's not even close to coincidental, or same-genre stuff.
Just one, for example - a childe pining for her Sire, who happens to be in something like "torpor"... IS NOT A COINCIDENCE. That is a blatant rip-off. It's never been done in movies before, and is not a hallmark of any material other than WW. And that's just one example. Anyone not seeing the ripoffs is actively trying not to for some personal reason or another.

About the WW "copying everything" issue:
Give me a break, and drop your prejudice against WW when posting about this, please.
Unfortunately, I haven't seen the obscure 70's movies you mentioned (I seriously doubt Captain Kronon and Vampire Hunter had clans recognizable as V:tM clans. I just don't believe it without more than anecdotal evidence, sorry), nor have I seen or heard of the obscure RPG reference to Chill. However, after a google search, the FAQ is here : http://www.fortunecity.com/tattooine/wilhelm/148/chfaq.html
and it doesn't look similar at all. Chill is about a secret group of hunters going after supernatural (demonic) beasts.
That's not all WoD brought to the genre, please.

I also searched for any site that talked about V:tM copying from Chill, but couldn't find anyplace on the internet that suggested a connection at all.

But I thank you 2 for trying to find influences on WW in creating WoD.
But just because something's been somewhere before, doesn't mean WW stole WoD from anyone. They might have used some elements from classic literature, etc, but what they created went far beyond just using "werewolves vs vampires". (<--edited)

And it's this World they made that was lifted, point after point, by Underworld. But it's worse - even the character relationships, conflicts, motivations, and actions were apparently copied, as well. Or at least it strongly appears that is the case.
But I'm reserving my final judgement until I see the movie myself.

That's a good point about the Carrie Anne Moss ripoff.
I thought she looked more like that girl from the Birds of Prey series, myself.
 
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DMScott

First Post
reapersaurus said:
I also searched for any site that talked about V:tM copying from Chill, but couldn't find anyplace on the internet that suggested a connection at all.

I don't doubt it, because I doubt there's any connection. The question wasn't "Did White Wolf copy these ideas", it was "did White Wolf initiate these ideas". They'd have to do the latter to claim ownership.

You seem to have this weird idea that if any two products express the same idea, one must have copied from the other. That just ain't the way the world works. Lots of people have ideas, and quite often the same idea at the same time. When you're dealing with elements as basic as the ones here - Vampires, Werewolves, and star-crossed lovers from feuding factions - it's hard to imagine a treatment that wouldn't have substantial areas of similarity with what White Wolf has done.
 

Pielorinho

Iron Fist of Pelor
I agree with jdavis: Collins's case looks stronger than White Wolf's. Are they claiming with a straight face that, because Underworld's vampires and werewolves fight with teeth and claws, they're copying White Wolf's vampires? That because Underworld werewolves don't use stakes, there's copying going on? That because both worlds have kickass women assassins, Underworld must have gotten the idea from WW? They're absurd.

Collins's claims look marginally better. Some of her claims are also goofy: there's only so many ways to have an R&J story between vampires and werewolves go down. But other elements look pretty similar.

It'll be interesting to see how it falls out. I sort of expect to see a repeat of the Franken-Fox debacle, personally.

Daniel
 


Villano

First Post
Vocenoctum said:
Didn't Scooby Doo have a village of werewolf-vampires? :)

I think your thinking of The Real Ghostbusters. In the end, the wolves and the vamps fought. Each time a vamp bit a wolf and vice versa, they infected each other, turning into bat-winged vampwolves. Then the Ghostbusters blew up the dam or bridge of something which caused the town to be surrounded by running water, trapping all the vampwolves.

On the subject of werewolves and vamps being mortal enemies, you should check out the werewolf films of Paul Naschy. He's a Spanish actor (and sometimes writer and director) who's done a series of movies (beginning in the '60s) based on his character Waldermar Daninsky, the werewolf. In nearly all of them, his werewolf fights some kind of creature or another, most of them vampires.

Other monsters he's fought include other werewolves, a Frankenstein-like creature, a mummy, and a yeti.
 
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Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Enforcer said:
That being said, I'm sure that the end to all this will be Sony tossing some "go away" money at White Wolf and we'll never here anything else about it. Why fight a suit, even if you can win, if your legal fees will be more than the settlement?

More importantly - that's probably all WW wants. If Sony had come to them, and asked to use some WW material in the movie, WW would probably have written up a license, set a price, and it would have been done.

The issue at hand isn't whether or not Sony took someone else's material. The real question is whether Sony took material without paying for it. I know I sound the cynic on corporations these days, but it's true. If Sony ponies up some cash, WW will quiet down, of course.

At best, it's a case of WW wanting reasonable payment for their material. At worst, it's a case of WW taking advantage of Sony's stupidity in making a movie close enough to WW property to be vulnerable.
 

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