Pull out your character sheets and roll for initiative because the courtroom battle over the movie rights for "Dungeons and Dragons" has just begun. But as our title suggests, the federal judge in this case will not be able to rely on natural d20 rolls but rather on his or her knowledge of entertainment law in order to resolve this monster of a case.
As some of our Los Angeles County readers may have heard, Hasbro is currently suing Sweetpea Entertainment, accusing the company of trying to make a D&D themed movie without the proper movie rights to do so. But Sweetpea disagrees, pointing out that it renegotiated the terms of its 1994 licensing agreement with D&D's original owner, TSR, in 1998. The negotiations ended in a "twice-amended rights agreement" that gave Sweetpea the right to continue producing movies, it claims.
But as you may already know, this case goes far beyond the complexities of intellectual property and movie rights. What will really define who has the right to make D&D movies is whether Sweetpea followed the amended agreement by making other D&D themed movies within the five years following the first D&D movie in 2000.
Sweetpea contends that the release of its two other D&D themed movies show that it adhered to the amended agreement therefore giving them the right to produce a sequel film with the help of Warner Bros. Hasbro disagrees though and claims that the sequel rights reverted back to TSR because the two other movies were "only TV movies" and not sequels. And because Hasbro acquired Wizards of the Coast, which had purchased TSR, the sequel rights now belonged to Hasbro, not Sweetpea, according to the lawsuit.
Deciding who has the right to make the movie -- Hasbro or Sweetpea -- will rely heavily on the wording of the amended licensing agreement, whether Sweetpea's two other films were considered sequels or not, and when the films were released. And if the case proves more complex than this, then it's possible that it could turn into a lengthy battle indeed.
Source: Courthouse News Service, "Studios Spar in Court on 'Dungeons & Dragons'," Matt Reynolds, Sept. 17, 2014