Stew Peters in front of screen shot from Died Suddenly

Janice McGeachin, America First Warrior/Facebook

Prominent conspiracy theorists are going to court over the rights to the anti-COVID-vax film ‘Died Suddenly’

Who is telling the truth?


Tricia Crimmins


Posted on Apr 10, 2024

In 2022, far-right media personality Stew Peters released Died Suddenly, a “documentary” that claims the COVID-19 vaccine is deadly, highlighting what he believed were “mysterious” collapses worldwide. Now, he’s suing the film’s producers and fellow conspiracy theorist Lauren Witzke for allegedly collecting donations on his behalf, falsely advertising a sequel to the film, and acting as the film’s owners.

Peters lists himself as the executive producer of Died Suddenly.

Died Suddenly focuses on cases in which people purportedly died unexpectedly after receiving the COVID vaccine. The film falsely blames their deaths on the vaccine and promotes unfounded claims that the vaccine is part of a larger scheme by “global elites” to reduce the Earth’s population to better exert control. The Associated Press found that the specifics of cases of supposed vaccine deaths and injuries highlighted on the film’s X account, which is also a subject of the lawsuit, were “largely unsubstantiated.”

Despite such criticisms, the film found a huge audience among vaccine skeptics and conspiracy theorists. Peters’ complaint states that it has been viewed over 20 million times.

In the lawsuit, Peters identifies himself as the rightful owner of the film’s trademark and asserts that the defendants—Witzke, Edward Szall, Matthew Skow, and Nicholas Stumphauzer—wrongfully asserted control of the film’s website, X account, and filed for trademark and copyrights to the film.

Peters is suing the group on 17 counts, including false endorsement, trademark infringement, deceptive and unfair trade practices, trespass to chattel (stealing Peters’ property), and breach of contract. Court records show that he filed the case on April 3.

Szall and Witzke are prominent far-right activists and Stumphauzer runs a Christian match-making site. Skow directed Died Suddenly.

None of the four responded to requests for comment sent via direct message, contact forms, and email addresses listed on their respective websites. As of this writing, records show that they have not filed a response to Peters’ complaint.

Peters claims the defendants altered the film’s website to accept donations from the public and states that donors would be given producer credits for a Died Suddenly sequel. Peters alleges that he never received any of the money they solicited via donation. He further asserts that he was unaware that they were collecting donations until relatively recently and that his “primary business model centers around selling advertisement/sponsorship spots.”

Peters is purportedly planning on releasing a sequel to Died Suddenly, but not with Skow, Stumphauzer, Witzke, or Szall. The producers themselves advertised a sequel they said would be “coming in 2023.” Died Suddenly 2 has not been released.

“Directors Matthew Skow and Nicholas Stumphauzer are in pre production now on a sequel to address all the criticisms, answer further questions, perform scientific experiments to demonstrate the claims made,” a screenshot of the Died Suddenly website included in the lawsuit states. “And bring all this evidence to Capitol Hill where it belongs.”

Peters also claims Skow, Stumphauzer, Witzke, and Szall used the film’s X account to make false claims about Died Suddenly 2 and amass paid subscribers. He also claims the producers “hoodwinked” the X account’s followers into thinking Peters himself approved its tweets.

“You can help us fight back by subscribing to our channel for just $5 a month,” the Died Suddenly X account posted in January. “We greatly appreciate your support as we continue to deliver great content and research—as well as our documentaries!”

In Body Image
DiedSuddenly/X (Fair Use)

Additionally, the lawsuit claims Skow, Stumphauzer, Witzke, and Szall wrongfully attempted to file an “intent-to-use” service trademark on the film and applied to own the copyright for the film. 

“The Defendants did not, and do not, possess any right to use the [trademark], the Copyright, or to disseminate the Film,” the lawsuit states.

Peters claims he sent a termination letter to the four in January.

“Sadly, however, this is not the only way [The Stew Peters Network has] been taken advantage of, in one way or another, through our shared relationship,” Peters purportedly wrote in his termination letter to Skow, Stumphauzer, Witzke, and Szall. “Criminal to say the least.”

According to Peters, they responded by saying he hadn’t paid them for other films they made together that haven’t yet been released.

Peters is asking that Witzke, Szall, Skow, and Stumphazuer give him all the devices, websites, social media accounts, and donations associated with Died Suddenly—and that the judge certify that he owns the trademark and copyright to the film. Peters also asks for monetary damages from the four.

“[Peters] has suffered great and irreparable harm, including loss of good will, dilution, economic damage and lost profits,” the lawsuit states. “That harm escalates each day [Skow, Stumphauzer, Witzke, and Szall]’s acts are permitted to continue.”

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*First Published: Apr 10, 2024, 12:37 pm CDT