Musician Sues Summit Entertainment For Taking Down His Song In Twilight Dispute

from the takedowns dept

This one is a bit confusing, but an artist named Matthew Smith apparently wrote a song back in 2002, but late last year he tried to re-market the song by trying to associate it with the Twilight Saga movies. He did so by doing some sort of deal with the company that sells pre-movie ads to promote the song in various theaters... and by getting an image designed as the "cover" image for the song that was inspired by the Twilight Saga -- using a moon and a similar font to the movie's advertisement. Summit -- who has shown itself to be ridiculously overprotective of its trademarks and copyrights issued a takedown to YouTube, where the song was hosted. This part isn't clear, because I'm not sure where the song image was included on the YouTube page. I guess in the video, but the article linked above doesn't say.

YouTube, of course, took down the video, and a back and forth between lawyers ensued, with Summit claiming that the image represented trademark infringement -- and claiming that YouTube "does not differentiate between copyright infringement and trademark infringement." I'm not quite sure that's true, and it makes me wonder if Summit actually sent a DMCA notice, which you're not supposed to use for trademarks, or if it sent a different type of takedown notice (entirely possible). Either way, Smith has sued first, claiming misrepresentation by Summit, and saying that the song clearly doesn't infringe on Twilight's copyright, because it was written well before the Twilight Saga existed. Of course, as the article at THResq notes, in doing so, Smith also shows that he misrepresented himself in advertising that the song was "inspired" by the Twilight Saga.

It doesn't seem like he really has much of a case here. While I think it was probably pretty pointless and petty for Summit to issue the takedown, it's entirely possible that the guy was infringing. The real question is whether or not Summit really did make a copyright claim here, rather than a trademark claim -- but even if that's the case, I can't see the "damages" being that high. Either way, it seems like another silly intellectual property-inspired legal fight, that has little to do with what either copyright or trademark law were intended to do.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    monkyyy, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 7:12pm

    i bet the lawyers saw it and recommended they fight it hard, at any expense

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    annamorphos, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 8:50pm

    another lawsuit?

    Sounds like someone else is trying to cash in on the success of Twilight. First it was that girl who claimed that Meyer plagiarized her work, then the hand model (that didn't include a court case), then the literary scout that "found" Twilight, NOW this?
    Seriously, if you haven't gotten a paycheck from Summit already, it's probably not going to happen. Get over it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 9:14pm

    Summit is faced with a problem. You let this guy slide,and tomorrow you have a dozen more bozos trying to ride the twihard bandwagon. Soon enough, the value of their official stuff is lost, sunk in a sea of manure.

    They have to protect their work to retain value.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 9:23pm

    If the intent of these laws is to make lawyers rich then they are doing a good job.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 9:24pm


    So manure is sunk in a sea of manure? I get your point, but unless this guy was explicitly claiming that this song was offically related to twilight, it's nothing more than fair competition along the lines of "If you liked Twilight, then you'll love this!" Imagine if Amazon were to recommend non-Summit items to Twilight fans...the horror.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 9:29pm

    "Summit -- who has shown itself to be ridiculously overprotective..."

    Mike, you refer to Summit as "who" in this sentence. This seems a little odd to me because, while they're certainly a legal actor, Summit is not a real person. Unless we want to encourage people to think about corporations as real people with all the rights of a human being, I think it would be far more appropriate to use "which" instead of "who" when referring to a corporation.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    Killercool (profile), Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 9:37pm


    If he was "inspired" *gag* by the books, then he would be correct in saying that the song could have existed before Summit's Twilight Saga existed. Any idea about that?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    aaron, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 10:39pm

    full story

    I think only the courts will know the full story, but i say i have seen people write songs years before and never release but get inspired but something to make them release it.. maybe he changed the music or words to fit the film, we don't really know the full story all the stuff written is speculation unless we actually hear what happen from the sources. just sayin

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Paul`, Feb 23rd, 2011 @ 11:42pm

    Dueling as an alternative

    Its obvious with these types of lawsuits that one or both parties aren't in it for reparations to any real damages but to 'get back' at the other people for daring to inconvenience them.

    In this case the musician is upset that Summit had his video pulled and he wants to drag them through the mud as payback. Save everyone's time and let them sort it out on the field.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Carl, Feb 24th, 2011 @ 3:54am

    I think it's time......

    to send Abraham Van Helsing in to the fray and put an end to all the Twilight shenanigans. Now that would be a service to all humanity!!!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Spointman, Feb 24th, 2011 @ 6:01am

    Re: Dueling as an alternative

    Takedown notices are an incredibly powerful tool for copyright holders, but they're also amazingly easy to abuse. With a simple letter, the company can make any content it doesn't like disappear for a few weeks -- and the victim, in practice, can't do a thing about it. A counternotice is allowed to take much longer to process (as a matter of law) compared to a takedown notice. Again, in practice, there's no penalty for issuing a false takedown, regardless of the theoretical threat of perjury charges.

    Assuming for the sake of discussion that Summit really was wrong to issue the takedown, I would support the artist in this matter. He's fighting back, saying "It's not OK to issue false takedown notices." If I were in his shoes, I would insist that any settlement include a clause binding the company not to issue false takedowns again, with a meaningfully punitive penalty if they do. Something like, if it can be shown that the company has issued a takedown notice in error a second time, they have to pay the victim at least $1 million per letter, doubling for each subsequent notice sent in error (to anyone, not just the same victim). I don't want to cripple the company from protecting its assets, but I do want to give them a meaningful incentive to pay attention before they auto-send letters in the future.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 24th, 2011 @ 7:20am

    What a doof! Just write a new song. It's not rocket science. Especially with sampling. Anyone can do it now!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    BuzzCoastin (profile), Feb 24th, 2011 @ 5:22pm

    another angle

    What interests me about this is how well Google censors stuff without any court order, let alone trial.

    Google made a big deal about how it had to pullout of China because Chinese law required it to censor search results, but it has no problem following the unlitigated and unmitigated requests from corporate powers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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