Producer Jason Lust - who worked on a number of recent animated films, including The LEGO Movie (2014) sequels - sued Animal Logic Entertainment (ALE) in October 2016. According to Lust, ALE pushed him to sign over his intellectual property rights to Peter Rabbit and promised him a producer role on the film, then proceeded to bar him from participating.
In his lawsuit, Lust seeks 'remedies for, inter alia, the breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and fraud perpetrated by defendants'; 'an accounting of the substantial sums he is owed in both front-end producer fees (including producing and production fees), as well as in back-end compensation from various projects produced by [ALE] since the inception of the partnership between [Lust] and [ALE]' and 'a judicial determination of his intellectual property rights in certain films (which [ALE] are producing) which were brought to the partnership by [Lust] and the rights to which have never been transferred to [ALE]'. (Full text can be found at the bottom of this article.)
In short, Lust believes that ALE's partnership with him was simply a way to obtain his intellectual property rights and benefit from his creativity and innovation without providing compensation. But the plot thickens.
In 2017, ALE countersued Lust, claiming that "Lust’s public assertion that he continues to hold rights to and in these projects has and is interfering with third parties’ willingness to contract with one or more of the Counterclaimants with respect to these projects" and that "Lust’s assertion that he continues to hold intellectual property rights in these projects is independently wrongful because it constitutes a breach of an express term of the Employment Agreement". (Full text can be found at the bottom of this article.)
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (2021) is coming out soon, and it raises the question: does the sequel count as Lust's intellectual property as well?
The court ended up taking ALE's side (more on that here). But the saga continues.
Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway (2021) is coming out soon, and it raises the question: does the sequel count as Lust's intellectual property as well? U.S. District Judge John Kronsdadt weighed in: 'Under the SFA, Plaintiff is "entitled to be attached" to "[a]ll other projects agreed as commencing development after the Commencement, greenlit for production within a five (5) year period from the date of termination". The term "all other projects agreed" does not clearly exclude sequels'.
ALE's attorney said that 'Since Lust has received executive producer credit on both Peter Rabbit and Peter Rabbit 2, as admitted by him in his Complaint, and had no right to receive a producer credit on either films because both were first Greenlit after the Term, Lust has no claim for damage arising from his failure to receive a producer credit on either project'. (Full text can be found here.)
The final decision will ('hop'-fully) be made at the scheduled June 14 hearing.
This isn't the only film that's gotten into legal drama over the years. 12 Monkeys (1995), the classic sci-fi film, was also the subject of a lawsuit.
This isn't the only film that's gotten into legal drama over the years. 12 Monkeys (1995), the classic sci-fi film, was also the subject of a lawsuit. Architect Lebbeus Woods sued Universal City Studios, Inc. for copyright infringement of his drawing, 'Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber'. He 'moved for a preliminary injunction enjoining Universal from distributing, exhibiting, performing or copying those portions of the motion picture entitled 12 Monkeys which reproduce his copyrighted drawing, or any portion of it' in his 1996 lawsuit (a record of the court case can be found here).
Countless more films have inspired lawsuits - too many to list here! Given the many complexities of the world of intellectual property, this comes as no surprise, especially given creators' numerous influences. The best advice I can give to any aspiring filmmakers is to be honest with audiences about who worked on your film, their contributions, and from where you got your ideas.