In The United States, Satanic Temple recently brought legal action against a major entertainment company for its show, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  It was wanting $50 million in damages for copyright infringement.

Allegedly, a statue of the goat-head deity Baphomet, that Satanic Temple designed and created, was displayed and misrepresented in the show over four episodes without prior permission.

Satanic Temple created the Baphomet to symbolise religious freedom, but the show conveyed the Baphomet to represent Satan. Satanic Temple complained the misrepresentation would likely be detrimental because it would allow others to make inaccurate assumptions about the Temple and its beliefs.

Copyright in New Zealand

In New Zealand, from the moment you create, publish or perform an original creative work it is automatically protected under the Copyright Act 1994. Generally, you as the author have exclusive rights such as to use, publish, copy or sell your work for the life of the author plus 50 years.

Copyright law then prevents others, such as Warner Bros, from copying, showing, performing, communicating, or adapting your work, or a substantial part of it, without your permission. Additionally, it also grants you moral rights to object to any derogatory treatment of your work.

Therefore, under New Zealand law it is likely that the entertainment company’s actions would amount to copyright infringement as a replica Baphomet was used in the show and was being shown in a derogatory manner.

Copyright Infringement

If you decide to use a substantial, distinctive, or important, part of someone else’s copyright work, it is recommended to contact the owner of the copyright work to obtain their written permission before you use it.  In some cases the author may require you to pay a fee to license their copyright work for a particular purpose.

In some situations permission is not required where the copyright has expired and the work is now in the public domain. Copyright work can also be used for fair dealing to criticise, review, news report, educational purposes, or private study.

Where copyright has been infringed, courts can grant certain remedies such as preventing the person from using the copyright work, or making an order to pay damages and account for profits from the mis-use to the author. 

It is important to remember you cannot just replicate any person’s work, because it is protected by copyright.

If you are unsure whether you are infringing on copyright you should seek legal advice, as the costs of getting it wrong can be very significant.  The parties settled out of court in this case.

Kirsten Ferguson

Special Counsel