A week ago, a pilot episode for a Wheel of Time TV show aired at 1:30 in the morning on the cable channel FXX. And its producers, Red Eagle Entertainment, explained it was basically to hold onto the rights past their Feb. 11 expiration date. But now, they've sued Harriet McDougal, the widow of author Robert Jordan.
You can read the entire lawsuit filing below, courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter. But in a nutshell, here's what it says.
Red Eagle licensed the rights to the incredibly popular Wheel of Time series in 2004, and has paid over $630,000 in total to keep renewing the license ever since. In addition to trying to get a movie or TV show off the ground, they've also worked on developing comics and games. In 2009, they licensed it in turn to Universal Pictures — but when Universal failed to make a movie by Feb. 2014, the rights reverted to Red Eagle.
(McDougal has claimed in her blog post that Universal owned the rights and that Red Eagle no longer had the right to make a TV show or movie at all, but Red Eagle disputes this and says Universal's limited-time "derivative acquisition agreement" had already expired.)
Red Eagle then tried to make a new deal with Sony for Wheel of Time. And McDougal and her attorney both flew first class to L.A. on Sony's dime, to take part in meetings about The Wheel of Time. Which would make it sound as though McDougal was aware that Universal's rights had lapsed. As the lawsuit states:
At no time during these face-to-face meetings in Los Angeles (at which she was accompanied by counsel), in the course of the following email correspondence, or in the following discussions with Sony, did Defendant McDougal or her counsel ever raise any questions about [Red Eagle]'s rights in the Property or its ability to proceed with the television production. To the contrary, she had previously urged Plaintiff to pursue the development of a television production based upon the Property. Her willingness to travel cross-country and personally attend this meeting encouraged Plaintiff to continue its efforts to make a deal with Sony, a major competitor for Universal.
But it sounds as though discussions with Sony were still ongoing when Red Eagle's rights to Wheel of Time were set to expire on Feb. 11. Which is why Red Eagle put the "Winter Dragon" pilot on television.
And the lawsuit argues that McDougal's blog post, in which she claimed that the rights to Wheel of Time belonged to Universal and called the Red Eagle pilot unauthorized, would damage Red Eagle's ability to keep negotiating with Sony or other interested parties. McDougal had apparently agreed in writing not to say anything to disparage Red Eagle, thus putting her in breach of contract.
Interestingly, the Red Eagle suit claims that their rights to Wheel of Time, which didn't expire on Feb. 11 due to the TV pilot airing, are now "vested" and "irrevocable." They're seeking an unspecified amount of damages from McDougal for breach of contract, slander, and "intentional interference with contractual relations."
Rick Selvage, CEO of Red Eagle, tells io9 that his position is "pretty well laid out in the lawsuit." When asked if he's still in discussions with Sony about adapting The Wheel of Time, Selvage would only say, "No comment." He did say, "We have the rights, and we have ongoing discussions with a number of entities."
Asked whether the lawsuit would tie up the rights to Wheel of Time for years and prevent a TV show or movie from actually getting made, Selvage replied, "Of course not. It won't prohibit anything."
Update: A representative of McDougal got back to us, and said they have "no comment on pending litigation."
The whole court filing is below: