News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox Film Corp. and Marvel Enterprises Inc. have filed competing lawsuits over the use of the superheroes The X-Men.
Marvel created The X-Men in 1963, when the comic book series of the same name was initially published. The X-Men are humans whose mutated genes give them super powers.
20th Century Fox is seeking damages from Marvel, which is planning to start filming a live-action TV series called Mutant X on June 4. 20th Century Fox claims that the series will cheapen the value of Fox's The X-Men movie and ignores contracts that Marvel signed with Fox.
"Although we value our good relationship with Marvel and hope for a quick resolution of this matter, we must take all appropriate action to protect our valuable X-Men rights," Flo Grace, vice president of communications for Fox, said Thursday.
Grace refused to comment further on the legal action being taken by 20th Century Fox or the Marvel counter-suit.
Marvel alleges that the television series differs entirely from the movie, and that the series has different character names, different character personalities and a different underlying premise. Marvel's chief creative officer asserted in a press release by the company that modern science makes it logical to have genetically-altered superheroes.
A Marvel spokesperson did not return calls for comment.
Marvel's complaint was filed just minutes after the Fox complaint, according to The Associated Press. In its lawsuit, Marvel asked for a declaratory judgment from the court, contending that it can't possibly infringe on its own trademarks, and thus hasn't done anything wrong.
Marvel's production company has recently finalized the filming schedule, with many resources committed to the project. The filming is scheduled to begin June 4, and the series debut is tentatively set for the fall. It will pose a definite financial hardship to Marvel to cancel production at this juncture.
This isn't the first time a legal battle has occurred over the rights to a superhero.
A decade-long battle over the feature film rights to the Marvel Comics character Spiderman is one of Hollywood's costliest and most convoluted legal spectacle. At one point there were five lawsuits pending before Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Valerie Baker, with as many as 18 separate written agreements at issue.
Howard Weg, an attorney who represented the liquidating trust of Carolco Pictures at the time - which claimed to have acquired the movie rights in 1989 but went bankrupt in 1995 - told reporters: "All the entities involved have elected not to make a movie, but litigation."
The matter was ultimately settled after 11 years of litigation, with Columbia Pictures finally capturing the rights to make a Spiderman movie. James Cameron has written a treatment. David Koepp is the credited screenwriter. The movie is scheduled a summer 2002 release, 13 years after the movie rights were acquired.
Former Al Gore running mate and outspoken Hollywood critic Sen. Joe Lieberman will arrive in California on Wednesday for a powwow with the movie industry's leading movers and shakers.
Following hot on the heels of the Connecticut senator will be colleagues Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and John Edwards (D-N.C.). Boxer recently gained a seat on the highly powerful Senate Commerce, Science and Transporation Committee, which currently has oversight of the entertainment industry.
Lieberman is a longtime critic of the way Hollywood portrays violence and what he says is the industry's lack of a meaningful rating system. Since losing his bid for the vice presidency, Lieberman has said that he intends to bring legislation that would give the Federal Trade Commission authority - albeit limited authority - to address the movie and video game industries on false advertising, Reuters reports. That legislation has yet to be introduced.
Lieberman did introduce, along with Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), the "21st Century Media Responsibility Act of 1999." The main thrust of the bill was to enact a "uniform labeling system for all entertainment media violence" to cover motion pictures, TV programs, music and video games. The bill was read twice and referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, where it remains, according to McCain's office.
The Motion Picture Association of America criticized the act in a written statement, saying any attempt by the federal government to define such terms as "intensity of violent content," "age appropriateness" and "context" would collapse in failure because those concepts are elusive.
Lieberman also was in the forefront of the V-chip movement, which supplied parents with news tools to screen out violent and offensive programs. This comes in the form of the V-chip blocking technology, which is now installed in all new televisions. He also has advocated efforts to promote more education programs for children on broadcast television; sponsoring legislation encouraging the industry to resurrect its longstanding code of conduct; and asking the Federal Communications Commission to determine whether broadcasters are meeting the "public interest" standard prescribed by law.
Lieberman and Gore were both criticized for accepting money from Hollywood's bigwigs while publicly decrying the lack of morals and standards by the entertainment industry.
The MPAA has arranged all the meetings, at the request of the respective senators.
The senators are setting the agenda, and that the location of the meetings could not be revealed, said Rich Taylor, the MPAA's head of communications.