Brains, Blood, Sweat, and Tears: Derivative Works and the Walking Dead Licensing Controversy

Regardless of how you feel about character development and innovative plot progression, AMC’s The Walking Dead (TWD) is an undeniable hit. Based upon the comic book of the same name by Robert Kirkman, TWD, for the past five years has consistently been one of the top rated TV shows on television, even outperforming Sunday Night Football. It averages 13 million viewers per episode, and about two-thirds of those viewers are in the coveted 18-49 demographic. Three-time Oscar nominee Frank Darabont (The Green Mile; The Shawshank Redemption) brought the TV show to life. He wrote, directed, and produced the pilot episode, and served as the showrunner and executive producer (often-synonymous positions) for its smash-hit first season. It was surprising then, when AMC suddenly fired Darabont while Season 2 was in production, and after sending him to promote the series at Comic-Con. Darabont sued in New York State Court in December of 2013, and recently amended his complaint to include the lack of accreditation and profits allegedly owed him from AMC’s “companion series,” Fear the Walking Dead.

The thirty-page complaint gives a lot of information about Darabont and AMC, but everything generally comes down to the following: Instead of having an unaffiliated company produce TWD, per the original negotiations, AMC produces the show itself. Because AMC both owns and produces TWD, it does not have to negotiate any licensing fees. Thus, when AMC decided to produce TWD in-house, Darabont required AMC, by contract, to use an “imputed” license fee with its production affiliate priced at fair market value. AMC, however, allegedly used a drastically low license fee, forcing production of TWD at a considerable deficit. Thus, although TWD is a hit show, it has unusually low profits and Darabont has not been properly paid. . . For the rest of the story, check out IPWatchdog!

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A Very Merry Unbirthday to Warner Music Group

Ever wondered why restaurants insist on doing weird clapping cheers instead of just singing Happy Birthday To You? It’s because, for the past eighty years or so, various copyright owners have jealously protected the song, demanding licensing fees for its commercial use. In 1988, Warner/Chappell (Warner) acquired the copyright and makes about $2 million annually in royalties from it. Or at least they used to. Continue reading

“The End of the Tour:” Showdown Between Copyright and Right of Publicity

Jason Segel’s breakout role as a “serious” actor in The End of the Tour has proven to be a success. Segel plays acclaimed American novelist David Foster Wallace in the last days of a publicity tour, after his novel Infinite Jest hit the shelves to critical acclaim in 1996. The movie is based solely on the book Although of Course you End Up Becoming Yourself, which, in turn, is based on an unpublished Rolling Stone interview, and all three focus on several days leading up to Wallace’s last stop on his publicity tour in Minneapolis. However, nearly every review or article about the movie includes the fact that Wallace, if he was alive, would never have wanted this movie to be made, and that his widow and co-trustee are adamantly against the film. Continue reading

Comic-Con Considerations: Cosplay, the Right of Publicity, and Copyright Concerns

For as much as Comic-Con is about comics, TV, and upcoming movies, it’s not hard to see that a large portion of its allure for fans is cosplay. Cosplay (a Japanese portmanteau of costume and play) consists of fans who create and wear costumes and outfits based on their favorite characters in media, spanning all forms of entertainment but most notably, video games, comics, movies, and TV shows. Most cosplayers do not buy their costumes, but rather physically sew and “design” the ensembles themselves, including sculpting foam to look like armor, obtaining elaborate wigs and headgear, and spending hours applying makeup.

Because cosplays are based off existing characters, and sometimes even objects, any copyright attorney worth their salt can tell you that these are derivative works, if not outright copies. . . Read more at IP Watchdog!

This Is How She Do: Katy Perry Threatens Copyright Suit Over “Left Shark”

The Super Bowl halftime show is nearly as big an event as the Super Bowl itself. Millions of people – many who are less than enthusiastic about football – tune in every year, so it is no surprise that the Left Shark during Perry’s “California Gurls” number received much recognition.

Perry had two dancing sharks behind her while she sang, and unfortunately, the Left Shark, found on “stage right,” seemed to have no idea what was going on, dancing off-tempo and making up its own moves in the background. Left Shark became an instant internet sensation, dancing into jokes, memes, and .gifs. And because the internet is a wonderful medium for the entrepreneurial spirit, Left Shark merchandise began appearing almost immediately afterward. Continue reading