The Almanac (pseudohistorian) wrote,
The Almanac
pseudohistorian

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Just a Little Bit More Than the Law Will Allow

While most people this week were paying more attention to the ruling that "Happy Birthday" is in the public domain after all (a case I alluded to briefly in my last post about copyright)--and I was certainly entertained to see every same-day show I watched after that ruling feature a rendition of that song--another ruling, involving copyright law and fictional franchises, also came out a few days ago.

DC Comics had sued a mechanic who was making replicas of the Batmobile based on the ones seen in both the 1966 series and the 1989 film. Although the mechanic argued that the car itself was a utilitarian object without copyright status and that DC doesn't directly own the series and movie anyway, Judge Sandra Ikuta still ruled in the comic book company's favour, showing some fannish credentials in establishing that the Batmobile is an "automotive character" with distinct and recognisable characteristics of its own which are entitled to protection.

You can read the entire ruling for yourself, but I was particularly impressed by the apt comparisons between the Batmobile and other characters which change their appearance and other details between different versions--including James Bond, who also came up in my last copyright entry. Of course, I mentioned him then because he is now a (literary) character without copyright protection here in Canada, but international copyright law remains complex.

The Batmobile itself is over seventy years old, so there will still come a point when it falls into the public domain. In the meantime, however, this is probably bad news for recreators of fictional vehicles everywhere...those people showing up at cons with a DeLorean or an Ecto-1 (especially if it's for sale) should probably watch their backs.
Tags: copyright
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