Last year, I reported on the ongoing legal battle over the Dungeons and Dragons movie rights. That battle is now escalating with a series of new court dates set.
To recap, back in the mid-1990s an amateur film-maker named Courtney Solomon bought the D&D movie rights from TSR, the owners of the game. In 1997 TSR was taken over by Wizards of the Coast and in 1999 WotC was bought by Hasbro. Neither company were happy with the deal that TSR had struck, but had no choice to honour it. Solomon's D&D movie was released in 2000 and was a massive flop. However, Solomon retained the film rights by producing a straight-to-DVD sequel, Wrath of the Dragon God, in 2005, followed by a third film, Book of Vile Darkness, in 2010 (although it was not released until 2012).
According to Hasbro, since the sequels were straight-to-DVD films rather than theatrical releases, the deal signed between TSR and Solomon's company, Sweetpea Entertainment, is now null and void. Last year they joined forces with Universal to develop a new D&D movie (the rumour mill is that this may be based on an existing D&D sub-franchise, like Dragonlance or Forgotten Realms, though this seems to be mostly speculation). However, Sweetpea Entertainment and Warner Brothers were also developing a big-budget film with the working title Chainmail. Both sides sued and counter-sued with a bewildering array of claims and counter-claims.
There will now be new legal hearings over the next few weeks. Warner Brothers have escalated proceedings by agreeing to pay Sweetpea's legal fees and offering $5 million for the film rights (which Solomon had bought for $15,000 in 1991), ensuring this could be a serious fight. The courts have made matters even more serious by suggesting that WB developing a script before having bought the rights could constitute copyright infringement, which could mean a startling shift of how Hollywood does business in the future.
More to come, no doubt.