Q&A: Can I Create a Film That’s “Inspired By” a Short Story Without Acquiring the Rights?

Q:  I was wondering if you could help me with a problem I am having with the rights to a short story.  I have been in touch with the relevant owners of the copyright and they have been told by the author’s estate they are not allowed to do anything with the rights to the story.  However, what I am wanting to do with the story is not a direct adaptation — but more of an “inspired by.”  What I am wanting to do is a 60 minute TV one off.  The only thing I am desperate to hang on to is the short story’s “twist” and elements of the central dilemma. Where would I stand with moving ahead with different character names, different structure, but retaining the twist and profession of the central character from the short only – crediting only “inspired by”?

A:  Copyright law doesn’t protect ideas – it protects the expression of ideas.  This is a simple concept in theory, but applying it to a particular situation could be challenging.  For several excellent, definitive, and thought provoking discussions of this topic, please see our blogContinue reading the full story . . . »


This Post Has 2 Comments.
Be Sociable, Share!

No Dogs on the Table, Please

If you’re like me, every once in a while, you see an adorable-looking dog and just say to yourself, “Oh dogs, gotta love ‘em.”  And, if you’re like me and live in Los Angeles, you occasionally follow that by saying to yourself, “What the…?!  Can that adorable-looking dog really be standing in the middle of this [department store/market/restaurant]?”  Singer/reality star/(alleged) plastic surgery cautionary tale Aubrey O’Day recently brought that question to the front of many people’s minds, with her decision to allow her dogs to sit on the tables at local brunch spot Toast reportedly triggering a city Health Department investigation.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an avid animal lover.  I even wanted to be a vet in high school, when I was trying to “find” myself.  But anytime I see a starlet with a pink-clad Chihuahua (or three) sticking out of her purse, I can’t help but ask how pets have managed to become people’s latest accessory, going almost everywhere with their owners (if the word “owner” makes you cringe, I apologize in advance, but that’s a legal term and not intended to hurt the feelings of any animals reading this blog).   And aside from people’s disapproving glares, are there any limits to where your favorite celebrities (and you) can bring their pets? Continue reading the full story . . . »


This Post Has No Comments.
Be Sociable, Share!

Don Draper: Modern-Day Criminal?

This blogger will be the first to admit that I may have a slight television addiction.  I’m routinely behind in my DVR watching (at least we’ve moved beyond the dark ages of the late 1990s when I had to record my then-favorite shows, Dawson’s Creek and Felicity, on VHS) and I sometimes find myself talking about the relationships between Chuck and Blair, Crosby and Jasmine, or Alicia and Will as though they’re my real-life friends.  (Bonus points for those dear readers who can name all three TV shows I just referenced, without clicking the hyperlinks.)

With that history, it should come as no surprise that I, like so many others, am waiting with bated breath for the return of Mad Men on March 25.  (There’s nothing like a year-and-a-half hiatus to make these trailers — which are really just cleverly edited clips from past shows — super exciting.)  On my drive to work every morning, I see the ads that have generated so much controversy.  So when on a recent drive, I heard this NPR story about the Stolen Valor Act and its intersection with the First Amendment, I confess my thoughts turned to our favorite fictitious, purported war hero, Don Draper.

[Warning:  This blog post reveals plot points from Seasons 1–4 of Mad Men.  Usually the statute of limitations on spoiler alerts would have expired long ago — you’ve had since October 2010 to catch up, people! — but just in case, for those of you who hate great television (and probably puppies and rainbows too) and have therefore managed to ignore the show up until this point, consider yourselves warned.] Continue reading the full story . . . »


This Post Has 4 Comments.
Be Sociable, Share!

Disney and Warner Bros. Duel on the Yellow Brick Road

A few weeks ago, Eriq Gardner of the Hollywood Reporter wrote an interesting article about Disney’s recent skirmishes with Warner Bros. concerning numerous Wizard of Oz-related trademark applications that both companies have filed.

For Disney, the trademark applications pertain to its merchandising plans for the 2013 release of Oz, the Great and Powerful — “a prequel to the 1900 book by L. Frank Baum, told from the point of view of the Wizard.”  (Fun movie trivia:  Does anyone else remember Disney’s last Oz film?  Headless, princess Mambi, anyone?  Dorothy at the insane asylum?  I suspect Disney is hoping you’d forgotten — but I never will!)

For Warner Bros., its applications (and oppositions to Disney’s applications) are geared towards protecting its rights in the ridiculously valuable Wizard of Oz film and related merchandise.  And it’s no coincidence that, while Disney’s film is to be called Oz, the Great and Powerful, Warner Bros.’ new registration is for “The Great and Powerful Oz.”

For Toto, these applications are all very boring.  He is still caught up in the 2004 book by Roger S. Baum (L. Frank Baum’s great-grandson) and Victoria Seitzinger, entitled “Toto of Oz and the Surprise Party.”  Because Toto eating cake with munchkins is way cuter than some stupid trademark applications.

Toto’s surprise party aside, the battle between Disney and Warner Bros. is a fascinating legal thicket, because it raises questions about the ability to protect derivatives of public domain stories and characters.

Continue reading the full story . . . »


This Post Has 2 Comments.
Be Sociable, Share!

How NBA Lawyers Can Save the NBA’s “No Star” Dunk Contest

For most NBA basketball fans, the highlight of All-Star Weekend used to be the slam dunk contest.  Julius Erving (a.k.a. “Dr. J”) participated in, and won, the first dunk contest in 1976, electrifying the crowd with a dunk from just inside the free throw line.  Nobody had ever seen anything like it.  Other past dunk champions include Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, Kobe Bryant, Vince Carter, and Dwight Howard.  These A-list stars flew through the air, captivated our imagination, and became legends.  Who can forget Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins squaring off in the 1985 dunk contest or their amazing rematch in 1988?  We thought it couldn’t get any better…until we watched Vince Carter’s performance in the 2000 dunk contest.

Now, virtually nobody watches the dunk contest.  It has devolved into a snooze-fest featuring players we have never heard of and whom we will quickly forget.  Commenting on the field of nobodies in this year’s slam dunk contest, one sportswriter aptly tweeted, “If the NBA held this event in your driveway, would you open drapes to watch?”

Whereas the dunk contest used to be an NBA star’s fast-track to a richer shoe deal and more posters on their fans’ walls (or just a way to treat NBA fans to something special), today’s NBA elite — with the exception of Blake Griffin in last year’s contest — are now too scared of losing to even compete.  That did not used to be the case.  NBA legend Clyde “the Glide” Drexler competed in 5 slam dunk contests and never won.  Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen competed in the dunk contest knowing the odds were against him.  Heck, even three-point specialist Ray Allen competed in a dunk contest.

Following a thunderous dunk by LeBron James in this year’s All-Star game, NBA commentator and Ferengi look-a-like Reggie Miller said what we have all known for years — guys like LeBron James need to compete in the dunk contest.  (And Miller is not throwing stones from a glass house, either — Miller participated in 4 NBA three-point contests, never winning a single one, but never chickening out.)

In 2009, LeBron James “preliminarily” agreed to compete in the 2010 dunk contest, before, of course, chickening out.  This weekend, LeBron said he would reconsider competing in the dunk contest if there were a $1 million prize.

Screw that!  Instead, I’ve got an idea for how the NBA’s lawyers can save the dunk contest — even if LeBron isn’t going to like it. Continue reading the full story . . . »


This Post Has 4 Comments.
Be Sociable, Share!

“Linsanity” Strikes the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

When I used to live in China, people liked to say, “Yao Ming lai le” (Yao Ming has arrived) whenever they saw my excessively tall frame lumbering towards them in a grocery store or crouching down beside them in a preposterously low-ceilinged subway car.  And I would smile, politely (usually while ducking my head under something or other).  At least they didn’t shout “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt” whenever I went out.  That would have been weird.

But half a dozen years ago, calling a tall person Yao Ming in China wasn’t unusual.  Yao Ming was (and still is) a household name there.  If you were in China watching the NBA back then, you were watching the Houston Rockets — because that was more or less the only team you could watch on China Central Television 5 (the government approved sports channel).

Now, it’s all about “Linsanity” — both in China, and at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Continue reading the full story . . . »


This Post Has No Comments.
Be Sociable, Share!

WP Like Button Plugin by Free WordPress Templates