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Old August 31st, 2005, 07:32 AM   #1
 
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ATT: Paul Tauger -- Fan Films Question

Paul, I've been wondering...

Characters from literature, comic books, television, movies, etc., are clearly copyrighted material. With the advent of "desktop movie-making" there has been a plethora of "fan films" based upon these characters (Star Wars and various super heros), comic books, and movies. Are these fan films not violating copyright laws? I would think they are.

Why, in your opinion, have we not seen any of the copyright holders (studios/publishers) pursuing legal action against the makers/distributers of fan films?

Jay
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Old August 31st, 2005, 10:31 AM   #2
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I know you want the legal answer from Paul but in the case of Star Wars, fan films are allowed as long as they 'register' with Lucasfilm and meet their requirements. Look at the site and you'll find that information there.

In the case of one fan *series* for Star Trek, the New Voyages, there is actually an endorsement from Paramount (the newest episode is written by D.C. Fontana and actually has Walter Koenig reprising Chekov).
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Old August 31st, 2005, 11:41 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Gladwell
Paul, I've been wondering...

Characters from literature, comic books, television, movies, etc., are clearly copyrighted material. With the advent of "desktop movie-making" there has been a plethora of "fan films" based upon these characters (Star Wars and various super heros), comic books, and movies. Are these fan films not violating copyright laws? I would think they are.
Many are, indeed, violative of copyright (and, in most instances, trademark as well). Some are true parodies, as a matter of law, and would constitute fair use.

Quote:
Why, in your opinion, have we not seen any of the copyright holders (studios/publishers) pursuing legal action against the makers/distributers of fan films?
One of my clients is a major computer game developer. There are lots of fan sites that use my client's protected IP, including some that even produce videos from the game material. We not only tolerate them but, in some instances, encourage them -- it's good publicity for my client and helps sales. Usually, we'll draw the line at any unauthorized commercial exploitation of our IP. Though it hasn't come up, we'd also aggressively pursue something that tarnished our IP, e.g. using our characters in a porno context. I suspect this attitude is common within the film industry as well.

Copyright, unlike trademark, is not a "use it or lose it" right, i.e. every infringement discovered doesn't have to result in a lawsuit.
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Old August 31st, 2005, 01:00 PM   #4
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Iget the impression it's more a matter of corporate philosophy rather than law in many cases. I think Mattel has agressively pursued almost all the Barby fan and collector's sites over copyright and trademark infringment, for example.
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Old August 31st, 2005, 02:27 PM   #5
 
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Much appreciated, Paul. Thank you for your time and insights!

Jay
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