Warner Bros. struck gold back in 2013 with The Conjuring, a critically-acclaimed horror movie that has spawned a massive franchise but trouble is brewing. The studio may have engaged in copyright infringement in order to make The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2 and Annabelle. Now, Gerald Brittle, author of The Demonologist, is staking his claim. He is suing Warner Bros. for $900 million.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gerald Brittle is having the exclusive rights to make derivative works based on the cases in his book. He said he had an that agreement dates back to 1978 even before he wrote his book. There was a “no competing” work provision that is still in effect. Because of this, he claims that Warner Bros. New Line and even director James Wan were in the wrong in making The Conjuring, the sequel and spin-offs.
Here is what attorney Patrick C. Henry II had to say about it.
“When Lorraine Warren granted the Defendants the right to use the Warren Case Files, which the Defendants themselves repeatedly state their movies are based on, she could not have done so because she had years earlier contractually granted that exclusive right to use those same Warren cases, Warren Case Files and related materials to the Plaintiff. Lorraine Warren had nothing to convey. It is very hard to believe that a large conglomerate such as Warner Brothers, with their army of lawyers and who specializes in intellectual property rights deals, would not have found The Demonologist book or the deals related to it, or Brittle for that matter. Defendants have built a billion-dollar franchise based on rights they knew they did not possess. They ignored this ‘inconvenient’ fact and willfully proceeded anyway.”
Gerald Brittle also claims that New Line explicitly told screenwriters not to read The Demonologist. That is presumably because the studio knew that they didn’t have the rights to the book. In the complaint filed, the author used Warner Bros.’ own argument in a separate lawsuit against them. Warner Bros. sued a company called Innovative Arts for screener piracy.
Here is what Patrick C. Henry II wrote.
“Warner Brothers alleges that Innovative willfully ignored and then infringed upon its exclusive copyright protected rights (i.e., reproduction, distribution and performance) which has resulted in ‘irreparable harm’ to Warner Brothers. Warner Brothers further alleges the appropriate remedy under the law for knowing and willful infringement is disgorgement of all of the infringer’s profits derived from said infringement and an injunction to insure the pattern of infringement is stopped.”
The studio claims that Conjuring franchises are based on “historical facts” and actual events that occurred in the lives of Ed and Lorraine Warren. However, according to Gerald Brittle, Warrens actually lied quite a bit about what happened in their stories. If that is indeed the case, it means that the movies is all about the work of fiction.
“To the extent the Defendants’ movies are not based on ‘historical facts’ they cannot claim they are protected by the ‘fair use’ doctrine exemption to copyright.”
Just for your information, Gerald Brittle is not the only person who files a lawsuit to Warner bros. TV Producer Tony DeRosa-Grund also sues the studio since he was trying to make a Conjuring TV series at one point. Until now, the studio declined to comment further.
Why people are that crazy with the franchise?
The Conjuring, The Conjuring 2 and Annabelle have made $895 million worldwide. They also have Annabelle 2 on the way later this year and another spin-off called The Nun. By the end of 2017, many people predict Warner Bros. will get $1 billion from the franchise. So, it is not good for business if Warner Bros. is found guilty of copyright infringement.
The Conjuring is one of the biggest franchises in Hollywood right now. It might not be all that surprising that people want in on the action. But if Warner Bros. loses this case, they could be in some serious financial trouble, as opposed to rolling in the dough.