Legal Breakdown: The Makers Of ‘Twiharder’ Sued The Makers Of Twilight And Vice Versa

Happy sports everybody! Go teams!

I did something unusual during the Super Bowl this year: I gave a f*ck who won. Professional football in Los Angeles ends with USC’s final game of the season, but I now have an NFL favorite because Richard Sherman is going to make an excellent attorney one day. “DON’T YOU EVER TALK ABOUT MY EXPERT WITNESS. HE’S THE BEST CORONER IN THE GAME.” Finch and Sherman, LLP: Get That Weak-ass Sh*t Out of Our Courthouse.

And that’s the last time I’ll be mentioning football for about a year, except possibly as a euphemism for Tarantino’s newest fetish.

Vamparody. Like its protagonists, the five Twilight movies refuse to stay dead:

“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.”

I guess the biggest surprise here is that the alleged parody does not involve the immortal evil of Seltzer and Friedberg, relentless enemies of funny. Second biggest is that Lionsgate, described as “fiercely protective of [its] intellectual property,” never went after the makers of the commemorative Twilight felt uterus–forever known around these parts as the PortaBella Mushwomb (thanks to Chino Moreno for that pun and so, so much more). Presumably, Lionsgate was busy supersaturating its films with excellence.

Reeeaaaalll brief summary. In 2013, a company called Between the Lines Productions sued Lionsgate. Between the Lines had made Twiharder, an alleged parody of the famed vampire boy/werewolf boy/expressionless girl love-triangle-abstinence-parable-quintilogy. Claiming that Lionsgate’s interference had put the kibosh on potential distribution deals Between the Lines had set up for the movie, they filed a suit asking for $500 million.

As you do.

There’s a link to the complaint in the story above, but in the name of all things holy, do not click on it. For one thing, it’s 219 pages long. Not only will you not read that, I won’t either–the photos, videos, police artist sketches and bas reliefs Vince has of me are not incriminating enough to make me go through a document that long. You want me to read over 100 pages of anything, you better put f*cking Lannisters in it. I did, however, skim enough of the complaint to see that the lawyer included references to both the founding fathers and the Urban Dictionary definition of “twi-hard”; also, to illustrate the concept of a “tentpole” movie–you know, a blockbuster release like Avengers or whatever–the guy includes a drawing of an actual tentpole. Like, a pole holding up a tent. So this is some incredibly long, self-important, “I’m putting the whole system on trial” sh*t; basically, it’s a Sorkin monologue.

Lionsgate responds. Here’s where the rubber meets the vagina: last week, the studio used a legal tactic I pioneered, colloquially known as “F*ck me? Oh no, my friend, f*ck YOU.” They put chrome to the plaintiff’s dome in the form of a counterclaim, negating the original suit’s arguments and spittin’ some rhymes of their own:

“As a direct and proximate result of Plaintiff’s wrongful acts, [Lionsgate] has suffered and continues to suffer and/or is likely to suffer damage to its trademarks, business reputation, and goodwill.” (page 35, as if you care)

That’s the haiku-length version of another long-ass screed. Between the Lines says that their movie constitutes “fair use” of Twilight characters, trademarks, logos and such, included only as necessary to make a parody. Lionsgate says bullsh*t, you’re trying to make people think your movie is related to ours and fool them into giving you money.

Satire vs. Parody  vs. Kramer vs. Board of Education. It is legally permitted to make a parody of a movie, song, etc., and even the Supreme Court has acknowledged that you have to copy parts of something to mock it. At some point, however, you can’t claim that you’ve made a parody if you’ve just taken a bunch of somebody else’s ideas. It can be hard to tell what’s OK and what isn’t.

I regret doing this, but in the name of thoroughness, I’m including a link to the Twiharder site here. I implore you to not look at it; if you do, it is safest to view only through a pinhole in a piece of cardboard. An example of its diabolical nature: there is a music video, supposedly related to this movie, that appears to be based on Right Said Fred’s one hit. If you don’t know what that means, you don’t want to; rejoice, o young man, in thy ignorance.

Between the Lines doesn’t say that Lionsgate is too humorless to allow parodies of its beloved movies, but that it only sanctions ones that lack the hard-hitting realness of Twiharder. Here, they bring up the fact that Seltzer and Friedberg–no, I could not get through the column without referring to them again–made one such parody, because of course they did, and that Lionsgate didn’t stop them. Awesomely, the complaint gets the name wrong, referring to Vampires Suck as Vampire Sucks. And the incorrect version of the title is way better (term of art). There was apparently another parody, actually authorized by Lionsgate and never released theatrically in the U.S., called Breaking Wind. The person who approved that title probably gets paid more than you, so if you commit suicide right now, no jury in the land would ever convict you.

Free legal education. Parody differs from satire because a parody makes fun of a specific work, while satire ridicules “prevalent follies or vices” (so says the Oxford English Dictionary, anyway). So, in terms of not getting sued for infringement, you have much more leeway when you use parts of a copyrighted thing if you’re making fun of it than if you’re making fun of an unrelated, third thing. Like: you sort of need to use a Queens of the Stone Age song to mock Queens of the Stone Age, which is a bad example, because if you’re ridiculing QOTSA, f*ck you in all known holes. I always thought this piece of sh*t was a good example of what not to do. Since this is another link you shouldn’t follow, I’ll tell you that it’s an anti-Obama song using the tune of Kenny Rogers’s song “Lucille.” The chorus is, “you picked a fine time to lead us, Barack.” There’s nothing wrong with bagging on Obama, but there’s nothing right with doing it ineptly. And using a 1977 country song about getting dumped by your woman to attack a politician in 2010 is not ept. First and foremost, “Lucille” does not rhyme with “Barack,” and a lot of other things do. Rock. Sock. C*ck. “Obama” kind of rhymes with “Alabama.” You might even get away with “Hussein in the Membrane.” Or you could just come up with your own song, you lazy schmucks.

Ha. For reasons unknown, the original suit includes excerpts from reviews of Vampire Sucks [sic], possibly because the lawyer was getting paid by the word, or to prove that the movie did, in fact, suck (wit!). The one positive review noted is from the Fresno Bee, paper of record in Mancini’s hometown. That’s a tangential burn, son.

Ha Ha.  Lionsgate alleges trademark infringement by listing the many, many marks they have registered, including TWIHARD (sure), BELLA TWILIGHT (why not), TWILIGHT BRIDAL (wait what) and NOX TWILIGHT (I can’t even), in conjunction with products like clothing. bags, and “beverageware.” They note, though, that Between the Lines attempted to register TWIHARDER as a trademark for use with “fuel pumps for service stations.”

I do not know what to do with this information, other than cherish it.

Ha Ha Ha. It is necessary and proper for Lionsgate say that there’s the possibility of confusion between the infringing movie and theirs–that’s one of the legal requirements for the suit. But it’s pretty funny for them to admit that a terribly acted piece of sh*t is likely to be confused for Twilight.

My Verdict. Ordinarily I don’t think it makes much sense to go after parodies, especially in a case like this, when it’s very unlikely that Twiharder had even the slightest negative impact on Lionsgate. Let the little guys eat a meal on occasion. But Between the Lines drew first and shot by filing (and refiling several times, they’ve been real dicks about it) this suit for, remember, $500 million. So I say, let Lionsgate bathe in their blood.

Vaya con Ronnie James Dios, my people.

Twitter: @buttockus