Why Warner Bros Is Being Sued For $900 Million
If you're in any sort of business, you need to be prepared for the occasional legal complication. When you're in the movie business, it must seem that you're always involved in one lawsuit or another. We can now add another to Warner Bros. current list of priorities. Gerald Brittle is the author of the book The Demonologists, a book about Ed and Lorraine Warren, the paranormal investigators who are at the center of the Conjuring series of films. The author is now suing Warner Bros., director James Wan, New Line Productions, and others, for $900 million because he says he has the exclusive rights to the Warrens' story.
Warner Bros. has produced three films that come from the lives of Ed and Lorraine Warren, The Conjuring, Annabelle, and the Conjuring 2. In a massive complaint filed in Virginia federal court, Gerald Brittle claims that his original 1978 agreement with the Warrens for his book granted Brittle exclusive rights to make derivative works based on their lives as paranormal investigators. According to The Hollywood Reporter, this included a provision that the Warrens would not authorize any "competing work." When Lorraine Warren granted access to the Warrens' case files for the purposes of making the movies, she allegedly violated the agreement as Brittle was actually the one with the legal rights to do so.
Gerald Brittle's complaint goes on to argue that Warner Bros., as a massive company with plenty of lawyers, would have certainly discovered the agreement, and therefore must have knowingly ignored it.
If the idea that a person would not have the legal right to share information about their own life wasn't bizarre on its own, this story gets weirder. Gerald Brittle's lawyer apparently sent a cease and desist letter to the people cited in his suit prior to the release of The Conjuring 2, but it was apparently disregarded based on the argument that the movies weren't based on The Demonologist, but rather on historical facts. This would put the information into the realm of fair use, however, according to the complaint, that argument doesn't hold up because the events of the stories are not facts, as Brittle claims the Warrens lied about the events that took place.
So we have a case where one person didn't have the legal right to provide information they had created and where historical fact is, in fact, fiction. Somebody should make a movie about this. Although, they should probably be very careful with how they handle the contract. It's very early in this case, Warner Bros. hasn't even been officially served yet. We'll be keeping our eyes on this one as the dollar amount alone demands attention.
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