The Satanic Temple (TST), a US-based religious and political organisation has filed a $50 million lawsuit against Netflix and Warner Bros. Entertainment for alleged infringement of their intellectual property rights in relation to a statue which appears in their new television show.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Netflix’s reboot of a popular late 90s television show about a teenage witch, featured a statue in multiple scenes which TST allege infringes their copyright. The statue depicts a historical deity known as ‘Baphomet’, whose classic visual representation dates back to the mid-19thcentury as an androgynous humanoid being with a goat’s head.
TST used the classic image as a basis for the statue they assert was created as part of a protest campaign on the grounds of religious freedom. It features notable changes to the original depiction, particularly including the use of children. In fact, the statue is labelled in the suit as the ‘TST Baphomet with Children’.
Lucien Greaves, a co-founder TST who acts as the group’s spokesperson, used Twitter to criticise the design of the statue and argues the depiction was created ‘at substantial cost and with great effort’ and maintains the copyright to this depiction.
TST does indeed hold a US Copyright registration for the statue and the depiction in the show is arguably a near like-for-like recreation of TST’s ‘Baphomet’ statue. TST expressed concern in their suit that those watching the show would associate the statue, and therefore TST itself, with the subject matter of the show, that being how the antagonists of the show worship Satan in a particularly malevolent way.
TST alleges it was forced to file the suit as Netflix failed to respond them. An interview prior to the suit (quoted in the Complaint) offers some initial insight into the position of the show’s creators. Production designer Lisa Soper commented that their version on the show is ‘no different from, in my opinion anyhow… any other of the mass amounts of iterations of him that have been around’.
There is clear questioning of the distinctiveness of TST’s statue, perhaps believing that the design cannot be copyrighted since it is a familiar symbol or design without a necessary amount of unique creative expression.
A spokesperson for TST has recently told Business Insider that it is in the process of ‘finalising an amicable settlement’ with Warner Bros.