Report: Hunger Games Studio Goes After Anti-Hunger Organization

You probably haven’t heard that there’s a small independent movie — apparently based on a little-known series of books — called The Hunger Games that’s getting a limited release this weekend. Well, the studio behind that film is trying to stop an anti-hunger group from cashing in on the Hunger Games name.

“Hunger Is Not a Game” is a creation of the Harry Potter Alliance’s Imagine Better group, which has partnered with Oxfam to increase awareness about injustices in global food distribution and to get young people to sign on to Oxfam’s GROW pledge.

On the project’s website, it uses the Hunger Games books — especially the dystopian world in which food is doled out unequally between the different classes of citizens — as a way to demonstrate how this may not be all that dissimilar from the current situation with food distribution around the world.

Seems like a smart way to get young people to think about this information, maybe even engender some debate on the topic. But Lionsgate wants it all shut down because it believes this is hurting the Hunger Games brand.

ThinkProgress.org posts the following letter purportedly sent by a Lionsgate VP to the folks at Oxfam:

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 http://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.

The founder of the Harry Potter Alliance issued the following statement in response:

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?

EXCLUSIVE: As ‘The Hunger Games’ Opens Big, Lionsgate Tries to Shut Down Anti-Hunger Advocates [ThinkProgress.org]

Thanks to Joseph for the tip!

Comments

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  1. SavijMuhdrox says:

    Sounds like Lionsgate VP needs to turn it down and be ‘a little less douche’

  2. HowardRoarksTSquare says:

    Snape kills dumbledore. That’s this book ,right?

    OR is this the one where the guy is really a ghost?

  3. Cerne says:

    Wait I can’t just use someone else’s intellectual property to further my own aims without permission? Amazing!

    • Phil Villakeepinitrreal says:

      There’s nothing wrong with *referencing* someone else’s work as an example or an object lesson for what you are trying to accomplish. They are not, in fact, using any trademarks or claiming ownership.

      • Jawaka says:

        So would I be able to sell my product and advertise that a celebrity uses it (when he really does) without getting that celebrities permission to use his name in my ad? I don’t think so.

      • fantomesq says:

        I think thats the most stunning part of the letter. Lionsgate is not claiming ANY rights that are being violated. Titles to books and movies can not be copyrighted and are not used in a trademark sense so no trademark protection. They are hoping to scare the hunger organization into submission.

  4. Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

    I can’t dislike Lionsgate for their letter. Sure it always seems bad when evil media empire strikes down a not-for-profit or small business… But they have already partnered with existing organizations using their name/brand. There’s no reason for them to extend it to a third party, too. The response to their letter seems to almost have hints of PR extortion in it.

    Also, holy shit. I’ve never actually seen the movie poster for this thing yet. Is that really it? She looks like a bronze statue. What hath photoshop wrought…

  5. Doubting thomas says:

    Sorry, but Lionsgate seems to have a perfectly reasonable point here. The Hunger is not a Game slogan seems to be implying that that Lionsgate thinks starving people are a game to be exploited. It is a dig at the movie and the book that is totally unwarranted. I hate to take the side of Hollywood vs a charity but right is right.

    • ExtraCelestial says:

      Right. The issue isn’t just that they are using their name (although legally that would be enough), it’s that they are using their name in a negative way. I think the charity just assumed the studio wouldn’t challenge them out of fear of backlash from the public for threatening a charity with legal action. I agree w/ “Nobody says “teehee”” in that the response has a hint of PR extortion to it and seems to support this theory

    • daynight says:

      Uh, no! How often have you heard that ‘the opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the management?’ The concept in the fictional story make no claim to being the views of Lionsgate. That Lionsgate is partnering with other charities indicates that they are referencing their title in order to exploit the idea that hunger is serious and that it should not be mistaken for a game.

  6. ExtraCelestial says:

    Before reading the article I was all ready to be up in arms about this behemoth picking on a charity, but this is actually pretty reasonable. And the fact that they are already working with two anti-hunger groups further destroys my plan

  7. rockelscorcho says:

    Um, It was a book before it was a movie. Lionsgate films needs to get the sand out of their vagina and relax a bit.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      But the group launched its “Hunger is not a Game” effort around the time the movie came out, making it very deliberately about the movie, not the book.

    • Doubting thomas says:

      1. What a wonderfully witty and charming way to phrase that.
      2. Lionsgate purchased the rights to said book and has every right to defend the value of that name.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Rights to a book does not mean that they change the laws of copyright and trademark to fit their wants.

  8. Tim says:

    I don’t see what’s so wrong. Lionsgate is helping out an anti-hunger group and lending its brand to it. It’s just not the same anti-hunger group.

    And the Harry Potter Alliance should know something about branding … it obviously licensed its name from a major film/book series.

  9. Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

    I side with Lionsgate here. They have Intellectual Property that they have licensed to 2 vetted third parties. A non-vetted third party wants to use that protected IP to further their own agenda.

    If they do not protect their IP, what is to stop the marginal “charities” (90% administration and 10% charity for expenses split) from also riding on the coat tails of The Hunger Games?

  10. failurate says:

    Who would expect originality from the Harry Potter Alliance?

    • failurate says:

      And, who would donate money to a group who show themselves to be intellectually lazy and appear to have not even a shred of integrity?

      Groups that do things like this just wreak of fraud.

  11. Hi_Hello says:

    Battle Royale ?

  12. ajaxd says:

    What exactly is wrong here? They spent millions on marketing a little known franchise into a hugely anticipated movie release. Somebody wants to piggie-back on it (sure, it’s for a good cause but every charity gets a cut for operations and such). It’s just not right to do so.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Piggy-backing on fame is not illegal, unless you do it in illegal ways which they are not.

      • Tim says:

        So if I make my own third sequel to The Hunger Games and make an insane profit, there’s nothing wrong with it?

    • tbax929 says:

      Little known? Do you know how long the first book was on the NY Times bestseller list?

  13. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    A) If no images are used, it does not violate copyright or trademark laws. Referring to characters or book themes is not illegal.
    B) LionsGate clearly doesn’t understand the meaning of purpose of the book, except to make money. The subtext of the book itself underscore the problems of hunger, and Imagine Better is piggybacking off the theme to make real, positive change. They can’t be making it worse by pointing out a major theme of the book.

    TL;DR version: LionsGate just doesn’t “get” it.

    • failurate says:

      If you view the website for Harry Potter Alliance, they are using cartooned images, including the logo, from the The Hunger Games.

  14. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    “YOU can’t try to solve world hunger, WE’RE trying to solve world hunger. Just us! BACK OFF!”

  15. suez says:

    I will usually side with the underdog, but in this case I have to side with the studio. And no, it’s not just because I’m a fan of the books and hope the film is just as good. It’s because, whether or not it is Oxfam’s intent, this campaign DOES sound as if it’s both riding on the coattails of a successful series AND belittles the entire message of the books, which is that it isn’t just a game, but about inequity of wealth and injustice. While they may both have the same end goal, it’s the WORDING and the timing that makes me side with Lionsgate.

    And what does Harry Potter have to do with this? Is this a pattern?

  16. axolotl says:

    “Harry Potter Alliance”?
    Huh?

  17. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    I think Lionsgate has a point here. They didn’t give Oxfam permission to use their material. And, It sounds disparaging towards the Hunger Games to me.

  18. proficiovera says:
  19. MedicallyNeedy says:

    “We have the ability to take down your sites as a violation of our trademark and other intellectual property laws.” I thought Anonymous was the only one that does that. “Take down”?

  20. clydesplace says:
  21. Press1forDialTone says:

    Lionsgate. A perfect example of corporate overlord evil behavior. Nuff said.
    I knew there was a reason I don’t see movies from their production house.
    D-bags all.

  22. Aliciaz777 says:

    It’s clear to me that the “Hunger is not a Game” people are trying to further their own cause by riding on the popularity of the movie Hunger Games and I think Lionsgate has every right to want to disassociate itself with the charity. They’re already working with two charities anyway and if they partner with a third, what’s to stop more charities from doing this so they can attach themselves to the movie and make themselves popular as well? This is about protecting ones intellectual property and Lionsgate has every right to protect itself.

  23. DonnieZ says:

    None of what Lionsgate wrote is unreasonable, especially since the offending organization is both riding on the coattails of the franchise’s popularity as well as twisting it in a negative light. Lionsgate wasn’t d-bags about it, and they are asking nicely before releasing the legal hounds on them.

    It’s not like they are ignoring the issue of hunger either – they have partnerships with organizations that work to end hunger both on a national and international scale.

    I see nothing wrong with the request from Lionsgate and I fully support this action. Kudos to Lionsgate for handling this in a reasonable manner.