Movie Companies Battle Over “Dungeons & Dragons” Franchise

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It’s too bad that Florida entertainment companies’ legal disputes can’t usually be decided by a roll of 20-sided dice.

A relatively small production company is embroiled in a legal battle with game maker Hasbro and entertainment behemoth Universal Entertainment over the rights to make a film based upon the “Dungeons & Dragons” role-playing game. The production company, Sweetpea Entertainment, acquired property rights in a 1994 licensing deal with Hasbro, the company that owns the rights to the role-playing game. Since that time, Sweetpea has produced one “Dungeons & Dragons”-based film for theatrical release and two more for television. However, before it could get a fourth film in production, Hasbro sued Sweetpea, arguing that its license to use the “Dungeons & Dragons” property had lapsed. Hasbro then set up a new licensing deal with Universal to make a new “Dungeons & Dragons”-based movie.

Sweetpea has filed counterclaims of its own. It says the terms of its 1994 licensing deal grant it rights in perpetuity to make films based on the role-playing game franchise. Therefore, it says, Hasbro cannot legally sell licensing rights for the proposed films to Universal. Hasbro claims that the terms of the 1994 contract state that “sequel rights” revert to Hasbro after five years, but when exactly that five-year clock starts ticking is a matter of some debate. Sweetpea produced a “Dungeons & Dragons” film in 2000, but the various companies involved disagree over whether its 2005 and 2012 television productions counted as sequels according to the terms of the contract.

When playing a game of “Dungeons & Dragons,” players take on the roles of elves, magicians and other types of mythical adventurers and roll dice to see who prevails in battles. Needless to say, resolving contract disputes in entertainment law can be a bit more complicated. When Florida businesses in the television and film industries get into disputes with each other, they need representation from legal professionals who understand the complexity of their industry and how it relates to the realities of the law.

Source: Hollywood, Esq., “Sweetpea Aims to Stop Universal’s ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ Film,” Eriq Gardner, Sep. 9, 2013

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