Lionsgate serves Imagine Better Takedown Notice


Managing Editor

This morning ThinkProgress reported that Lionsgate, the studio behind The Hunger Games, is attempting to shutdown the ‘Hunger Is Not a Game’ campaign run by our friends over at Imagine Better and the Harry Potter Alliance.

As early as last month, Lionsgate gave the blessing to this campaign:

“A Lionsgate representative emailed Andrew Slack, the executive director of the Harry Potter Alliance which is the organizing force behind Imagine Better, in February to say that while Lionsgate couldn’t join Imagine Better as a partner, they wished Imagine Better ‘the best of luck.’”

So it’s even more frustrating when a month later, Lionsgate pulls a complete aboutface, only days after Imagine Better got a writeup in The New York Times. The short version is that Lionsgate claims the campaign is misusing their brand and is damaging their marketing campaign. The long version is below:

Hello,

This morning I left 2 phone messages for your CEO Mr. Jim Daniell regarding your campaign “Hunger is not a Game” piggy backing off of our motion picture “The Hunger Games” and using Lionsgate’s fans and fan internet sites to promote your cause.

As I mentioned in my phone message, Lionsgate has formed a partnership with two large organizations fighting hunger, the UN’s World Food Program and Feeding America. We are encouraging fans to support this effort by going to www.wfp.org/hungergames.

What is not a part of the Lionsgate plan is the distortion of our Motion Picture title. That is what Oxfam has done with your “Hunger is not a Game” logo. And with the many website you have incorporated into your campaign. This is causing damage to Lionsgate and our marketing efforts.

We understand and support your cause and mission. We are on the same side. We are looking for an amicable resolution. For a start 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. Additionally, please contact the undersigned so we can work out a mutually acceptable plan to go forward where we do not infringe on each other’s rights.

We are truly making an effort to work with you on this. We have the ability to take down your sites as a violation of our trademark and other intellectual property laws. We hope that will not be necessary as this is too serious a subject.

All rights reserved. Thank you.

Liat Cohen, Esquire
Senior Vice President Business Affairs & Litigation

What is most startling about all of this, in my opinion, is how extremely aggressive Lionsgate is being, not even bothering to veil their threats of takedown and worse. Despite all of this, Mr. Slack has responded, cool as ever: “Fans have been changed by this story and have expressed a wish to change the world based on the message of this story. I would hope that Lionsgate would celebrate fans, not pick on them, for taking the message of their own movie seriously. It’s amazing that they’re working with two great partners already to fight hunger. But why get in the way of fans who are working with a third one?”

Do you see anything wrong with Andrew’s suggestion? No? Us neither. Finally, as Leakycon Lit-Day Organizer and Queen of the Internet Maureen Johnson puts  it, “PR people and all relevant others: it’s shortsighted (and stupid) to try to protect your “brand” from positive fan involvement and charity. Also, if you (again PR and relevant types) think you can control the media narrative anymore-that kind of thinking will bite you in the ass.”

We agree. Go express your opinion in the comments!

  • Sectumsara

    It’s pretty ridiculous… and I feel like Hunger Games rock (Rockingjay?) could be next…

  • sirpopey

    If anything my outrage comes at reactions like these.

    Firstly you’re meant to be a news source so I find the way in which you lead me to express my anger is a little insulting as I’m quite able to formulate an opinion for myself.

    Secondly let’s look at the facts. Should this email be real then shall we actually take note of what was said in it…

    “Lionsgate has formed a partnership with two large organizations fighting hunger, the UN’s World Food Program and Feeding America. We are encouraging fans to support this effort by going to http://www.wfp.org/hungergames.”

    “We understand and support your cause and mission.”

    “Additionally, please contact the undersigned so we can work out a mutually acceptable plan to go forward where we do not infringe on each other’s rights.”

    “We are truly making an effort to work with you on this.”

    Now yes the email is somewhat formal in nature, they are a business after all so they are going to send rather formal emails like this.

    It’s also not ideal that they are having to impose their copyright on such a worthy cause but I feel that they’ve done nothing wrong. They’ve supported the cause to a point but now they find that people are misinterpreting the cause to be a damning indictment on how the Hunger Games is somehow contributing towards famine.

    Such misconceptions are easy to understand when you consider that the title of the campaign is a play on words. Such campaigns have been useful in the past, particularly with the HPA’s campaign against WB selling non-fair trade chocolate in the name of our favourite wizard but when they cause damage to what they are parodying I can see the conflict.

    But the way in this well mannered and amicable email is presented is rather disheartening. I’m finding this all too often lately as nerdfighters seem intent on fighting injustices when really reasoned discussion can solve problems like this rather easily. Yes it’s not nice that they’re having to do this but they are offering compromise and I don’t particularly see this as an ultimately black and white issue of right and wrong.

    Of course I’m basing this just on what I know thus far, I don’t know the exact extent of Lionsgate’s commitment to the campaign up until this email so the Hunger is not a Game campaign may feel as though the floor has been taking from beneath them but still, I’d like a little objectivity with the facts.

    • LeakyNews

      We actually agree that outrage shouldn’t have been encouraged and edited the article as such. Thanks for your thoughtful comment though we mostly disagree with you. :)

      • sirpopey

        Would it be advantageous to ask why “you” mostly disagree?

        I’m not trolling or playing devil’s advocate for Lionsgate, honestly. Like most, I also disagree with their fleeting support of this cause but the thing I fail to understand is the outrage caused by their reasoning of brand protection. Perhaps because I build brands as part of my job I see the value of them and that isn’t being communicated but they’ve expressed (privately no less) the want to come to a compromise which is hardly the act of an evil corporation.

        Also thanks for editing the story I think it’s good not to lead people like that, however on reflexion I was a little harsh in my wording so I want to apologise to Brad if he thought I was making a direct criticism toward him.

        • http://twitter.com/BradAusrotas Brad Ausrotas

          To sirpopey and all others offended with my treatment of this subject in my article: I’m sorry. My intent was not to come across as biased and slandering, but rather as very frustrated and sincerely in touch with this cause. It’s no secret that many of us here at LeakyNews have close ties with the HPA, so I thought it would be better to make my bias known right away. Unfortunately that’s not quite right. While I still stand by my position that there’s little Lionsgate could gain from this, and that fans have every right to be outraged, those are MINE OWN personal opinions, and thus do not belong in an article on a news website, no matter how close said website is to the cause in question. Look forward to more unbiased reporting soon.

          • sirpopey

            Brad, again I’d like to reiterate my apology to you, like I said above my wording of the critique was overly harsh and dramatic. Really I shouldn’t have raised it in such a way at all.

            I think it’s great that the leaky staff can contribute their opinions, I love the fact that comments here are engaging and that we can have differing opinions and each express them in an eloquent fashion with one another. So I hope something of this ilk doesn’t hinder your involvement and willingness to express your opinions as I think it’s the most valuable part of the site.

            As for the article, from reading people’s responses, I guess I just disagree with people’s assessment of Lionsgate’s email. Neither are right or wrong, time will answer that when we see how quickly they intend on releasing the evil lawyers. Here’s hoping they don’t as ultimately I think we all agree that the campaign is doing a brilliant job and should ideally be preserved despite these claims.

            • http://twitter.com/BradAusrotas Brad Ausrotas

              That’s as reasonable a response as I could ask for. Cheers!

    • Cait

      I’m not really seeing the “amicable” side to this letter. Maybe the more threatening lines are just standing out more to me, but when you’re asking for a compromise, you don’t start off by demanding a charitable campaign immediately stop all advertising and promotion, and you don’t end with a less-than-friendly reminder that you will do what you can to shut the campaign down if they don’t comply. If Lionsgate actually wants to reach a compromise, great, but I don’t think this letter is actually reflective of that.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fbromley Frank Bromley

      here’s the thing if the hunger is not a game campaign was a parody they would be protected because parody law is absolute

      considering the theme of the books is how the capital uses food to control the districts (a theme Lionsgate removed from the films i might ad) there attitude of do what we say or else strikes me as a bit ironic that they are acting like the capital)

  • http://twitter.com/Leah617 Leah Cornish

    Someone get Wil Wheton’s attention. He’ll put a stop to this nonsense.

    • http://www.facebook.com/fbromley Frank Bromley

      lionsgate has violated Wheton’s Law your better believe he will

  • Janine Fields

    I truthfully believe this is due to the rise of parents who are against this movie and the ‘Negative Conotation” that the title could bring. One who doesn’t research enough could percieved it as an organization against the books/movies.

  • Samuel

    This is ridiculous. They think that the fans doing a charity campaign makes the company look bad and harming their advertising and marketing effort ? This makes them look far worse. Lionsgate are the bad guys in all this.

  • http://twitter.com/Leah617 Leah Cornish

    While I appreciate your want for more objectivity I have a problem with your over-all assumptions on behalf of Lionsgate.

    All of the pieces of the (yes it is legitimate) email that you quoted are nothing more than smoke and mirrors. They are phrases used by PR companies to try to make them look less like bad guys. They don’t mean a word of what is being said. If they were making an effort to work with Imagine Better and the HPA they would not have sent a cease and desist just a month after supporting the cause in words. They would have sent a “is it possible to maybe change the name of your campaign” email instead.

    There is no way that this campaign in any way shape or form is harming the Hunger Games brand, Lionsgate, Scholastic, Suzanne Collins, or hurting any revenue or profits to be made. Economics simply does not work like that.

    In addition, Lionsgate accuses them of piggybacking on the success of the movie. OF COURSE they’re piggybacking on the success of the movie! That’s the point of these campaigns. You take something popular and use it to help get notoriety for whatever your trying to promote. What they did isn’t wrong or underhanded: it’s the way these things work.

    Again, while I understand your want in objectivity in a news website, I really don’t think playing the devil’s advocate for Lionsgate is any better. They’re being bullies.

  • Christina

    I can see why they see the name “Hunger is Not a Game” as negatively reflecting the movie and brand in general. When I first saw the name I thought it was a group against The Hunger Games and the franchise. After reading about it, I of course found out that they’re a charity group. However, I think it’s reasonable to imagine that lots of people will just see the name “Hunger is Not a Game” without finding out what the group is working for and will think this is a group against the books and movie.

    This is an unfortunate situation for both sides. It seems like it will be solved though if HPA simply changes the name of the project, right?

  • Kira902k

    I can’t believe they sent that email. What the HPA and Oxfam are doing is AMAZING and can only make their franchise look BETTER. Ughh I hope this gets sorted out. ASlack will come to the rescue.

  • John Rutherford

    This is probably the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard in years. I do not see how their belief that the Hunger is Not a Game campaign is damaging their advertising campaign. This really makes me want to boycott the film, and encourage others to do so. When you think big business can’t cause any more trouble, they do.

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