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“Vampire” Games Publisher Sues Sony Over Copyright Claims

‘Vampire’ Games Publisher Sues Sony Over Copyright Claims

By MICHAEL THURESSON

Staff Reporter

Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. has been sued by a Georgia comic book publisher that claims the studio’s “Underworld,” set to be released last weekend, violates its copyrights.

White Wolf Inc. filed suit on Sept. 4 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, in Atlanta, alleging copyright infringement, false designation of origin and unfair competition.

In its suit, the company cited 60 points of similarity between “Underworld” and the “Underworld: Bloodlines” PC game tied to the film and White Wolf’s werewolf and vampire fantasy role-playing games and books.

White Wolf asked the court for an injunction preventing distribution, marketing, sales and rentals of “Underworld” and “Underworld: Bloodlines,” the recall of all copies of the film and game, profits from their distribution and attorney’s fees. A hearing was set for October, too late to halt distribution of the film.

“It’s hard to gauge the damages in terms of dollars until they start making money,” said Steven Kushner, a lawyer at Fellows Johnson & LaBriola LLP in Atlanta representing White Wolf.

A Sony Pictures spokeswoman declined comment.

Also named in the suit were the film’s producer, Lakeshore Entertainment Corp., and Screen Gems Inc., a Sony Pictures division.

The $22 million film was written by Kevin Grevioux, Len Wiseman and Danny McBride, and directed by Wiseman. None of the writers was named in the suit.

Central to the publisher’s argument is its claim that “Vampire: The Masquerade,” a role-playing game, and “Love of Monsters,” a short story it published in 1994, were the basis for several of the film’s characters and plot lines.

Joe Gatta, an agent at the Gersh Agency representing White Wolf, said the company had not discussed licensing any of its properties for use in “Underworld.”

Sony had been touting the film by allowing PC game developers to graft characters from the film into a version of an existing game, called “Half-Life,” to create the “Underworld: Bloodlines” game.

White Wolf and Sony do have ties. Sony Online Entertainment Inc. has an agreement with White Wolf to create a board game based on a Sony game, Kushner said.

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