'Hunger Games:' Lionsgate relents in charity kerfuffle
As it rolls out one of the biggest movies of the year, Lionsgate is looking to quell a skirmish over its response to an independent charity effort.
A petition protesting the studio has sprouted up on the social action website Change.org after Lionsgate asked that Imagine Better, a nonprofit group, remove all references to the new action adventure “The Hunger Games” from the organization’s site.
Imagine Better, an umbrella organization that includes international anti-poverty nonprofits such as Oxfam, received a notice from the company’s counsel asking that it take down a page touting an anti-hunger and potable-water initiative it had promoted under the heading “Hunger is Not a Game.”
On the page, the group includes riffs on the Lionsgate property, referencing “The Water Games” and “districts,” as the geographic areas in the film are called.
Although titles are not generally covered by copyright protection, the company said it could make a case for infringement.
“We request that you immediately remove any mention of ‘Hunger is not a Game’ from all of your websites and its affiliates and stop using the slogan in your interviews and publicity or press releases,” Liat Cohen, Lionsgate senior vice president of business affairs and litigation, wrote, according to a report from the group Think Progress. “We have the ability to take down your sites as a violation of our trademark and other intellectual property laws.”
A Lionsgate spokeswoman said the company supported anti-hunger initiatives and had simply been concerned about the effort because it could conflict with an exclusive deal the studio had made with several other anti-hunger groups; that deal gave two other groups rights to marketing material during the theatrical release of the film.
"Lionsgate's partnership with the United Nations' World Food Program as well as Feeding America, both tied to the release of ‘The Hunger Games,’ is helping to generate awareness of this global issue," a spokeswoman said. "Our requests to other fan-based initiatives center more specifically around the use of copyrighted materials which have been committed to the WFP and Feeding America. We absolutely support and encourage the efforts of organizations battling world hunger."
The spokeswoman added that the company did not intend to pursue further legal action against Imagine Better.
“The Hunger Games” has become a canvas for many causes and agendas, some of the charitable sort and others of a more political stripe. In the days leading up to the film's release, bloggers have seen it as a critique of big government, a parable of the Occupy Wall Street movement and a call to bring Jesus into our lives.
-- Steven Zeitchik
Photo: Jennifer Lawrence in "The Hunger Games." Credit: Lionsgate