Asinine Satanic Copyright Panic Fiction

So it all began back in late October, when Netflix dropped one of its latest series: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. Based on the comic of the same name, and hearkening back to the 90’s ABC sitcom, Netflix’s series follows a teenage half-witch/half-human as she walks between two worlds. One of those worlds apparently includes a Satan-worshipping cult with no respect for intellectual property!

Almost immediately upon the show’s release, Lucean Greaves–the cofounder of, and spokesperson for, The Satanic Temple–recognized his intellectual property. Greaves immediately took to twitter, vowing legal action, and referring to the show as “asinine Satanic Panic fiction.” In response to critics, Greaves further pointed out the harms caused by the infringement, including associating the organization’s central icon “with human sacrifice in an evil patriarchal cult.”

The subsequent lawsuit, filed on November 8, 2018, detailed the creation of a unique sculpture titled Baphomet with Children in a painstaking process over many months, costing in excess of $100,000. Meanwhile, representatives of the show publicly denied any deliberate effort to copy TST’s statue. Nevertheless, the parties reached an “amicable settlement” by November 21st, a lightning fast result by any measure.

In a very simple statement, Greaves wrote “The unique elements of the Satanic Temple’s Baphomet statue have been acknowledged in the credits of episodes which have already been filmed. The remaining terms of the settlement are subject to a confidentiality agreement.” His remarks would imply that a limited license, or an equivalent, has been granted, and TST may or may not have received monetary compensation.

The case drew tons of media coverage, and countless weigh-ins by “experts.” According to one article, “[t]he case drew widespread interest in Hollywood because of the nature of the claims and because it raised broader legal questions about tensions between free speech and copyright protection. Legal experts said the dispute had the potential to change how Hollywood depicts cultural symbols in films and TV shows.”

Hogwash. The case drew widespread interest because every publication on the planet knows that articles mentioning Satan and Netflix in the headline will draw clicks and eyeballs. In a scathing statement, Greaves pulled no punches in his assessment of the interest in his copyright claims:

The truth is, it is a poor commentary upon our entire culture, in my eyes, that media overwhelmed this copyright claim, relative to which the coverage of our rally in Arkansas, which confronted still unresolved questions about the continued American dedication to Liberal Democracy, received sparse reporting for a day.

Press can now stop pretending this was unique and momentous, or even interesting. So, too, hopefully ends the parade of stupidity from online amateur legal experts.

In the end, this was a simple case exemplified by its rapid settlement. It’s a story that repeats all too often. The show’s designers probably spent 10 minutes searching the internet for examples of Baphomet statues and came across the one owned by TST. Knowingly or unknowingly, they slavishly copied the design for their own purposes. Very often, this form of infringement goes unpunished, as the artist either never finds out or lacks the resources to mount a challenge. Fortunately for TST, their leaders are well-versed in litigation and were able to make a quick example of this misconduct.

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