Topic: The Law
Fahrenheit 460: The Barbie Dialogs - Copyright Law and Ray Bradbury's Anger
In the January 11 issue of Just above Sunset you will find a detailed discussion of the suit Mattel brought against Tom Forsythe. As the New York Times reported yesterday and the Los Angeles Times reported today, the suit was settled. Mattel lost.
This summary is as good as any:
Of course the other way to look at this is now no one's copyright or trademark or invention or creation is safe any longer and this is a dark day for protecting what you have created.
Me, I don't care much either way.
I do see Ray Bradbury - the author of the novel/play/screenplay "Fahrenheit 451" - is going after Michael Moore about the "Fahrenheit 911" title. He's pissed off. Says Moore stole his title. Doesn't like his title being used in political ways. Bradbury does admit his novel "Something Wicked This Way Comes" quotes in its own title a line from Shakespeare (Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 1) but says that was sort of in public domain - or at least widely used and common speech. Bradbury says he now will sue anyone who uses the word Fahrenheit followed by any numeric for copyright infringement and major damages.
I think I'll register "Gone with the [any noun]" with the feds and make a lot of money. But I think Margaret Mitchell's estate already did that.
From a friend who actually used to handle licensing for Mattel (although I think she worked more with the Hot Wheels line than the Barbie side of the house) - "It's actually a victory for both Forsythe and Mattel. Barbie needs all the publicity she can get and it only cost them $1.8 million to keep her in the news."
Her husband, CEO of a software firm, disagrees - "I actually don't think it's the result Mattel wanted. But in this case they were actually wrong, it was very clearly parody as artistic expression. This was more clear in my view than the Wind Done Gone parody and where I think it was an abuse since they were both creative novels."
Background note - this from the June 29, 2003 issue of Just above Sunset:
Ah, but back to Barbie and Ray!
Rick Brown, the News Guy from Atlanta - and editor of City-Directory Atlanta - added this:
Well, no. I have no idea.
But I did hear an interview with Bradbury regarding all this - by telephone with MSNBC. He says he doesn't want any money from Moore. He wants his title back, whatever that means. He was unclear. He's getting on. He was born August 22, 1920 so he's eighty-four - and he has pretty much settled into the role of "The Grumpy Old Sage of Long Beach." He's a local legend. He doesn't have to make sense. That's his new privileged status.
Anyway, he said he's really, really miffed that Moore didn't call him to ask permission or even discuss the matter when Moore was making the film. And Moore only returned one of his many telephone calls since. (I'm sure when Ray as writing "Something Wicked This Way Comes" he would have put in a call to William Shakespeare and asked for his permission to use those words in the title - if he could. But obviously....)
Ray Bradbury wants his title back. Just how would that work? And yes, I do understand you cannot copyright a title. Very odd.
Bradbury also said his book "Fahrenheit 451" was NOT political at all - he said it was sociological and aesthetic. He didn't speak to his own politics. Says he hasn't seen Moore's film - Moore didn't offer to show it to him. And he's not going to buy his own ticket.
But what can one assume about his politics from his books? I just glanced through "Dandelion Wine" - a book my younger students back in the seventies rather liked. Small town America - summer and adventures in the neighborhood, odd but compelling domestic conflicts. Assume the politics of nostalgia - Harding in the White House and life-changing adventures just outside your front door in the friendly sunshine.
Rick Brown, the News Guy from Atlanta, commented on that hypothetical telephone call from Long Beach to some tomb in Stratford-Upon-Avon - Ray asking Will for permission to use the words of The Bard in a novel about spooky things in small town America. Did Ray make the call? "The old coot probably did, and I imagine is annoyed to this day that the Bard never returned any of his calls!"
Curiously, a friend in on all this used to work out here in "the industry" (the movie business), clarified some matters regarding titles. Of course Joseph now lives in France, but he used to live out here in Beverly Hills and he really does know this stuff - and he likes my idea of registering "Gone with the [any noun]" for my very own -
The game is rigged? Here in Hollywood? No. I need to meet this Major Bucks fellow.
As for Barbie dolls being used in obscene parodies getting Mattel all wrapped around it own axle, Joseph wonders whether all that wasn't settled in the "Big Bird" case between PBS and the University of Colorado back in the early '90s. He asks if any of us remember the painting of Bert and Ernie doing the missionary while big bird watches through the window.
Nope. Missed that.
But his main point - titles can be protected. Is 911 too closed to 451 on the Fahrenheit scale? The difference is 460 degrees. Are they really different titles?
A tale from Phillip Raines, who writes of a treehouse and music in Just Above Sunset (links on the left side of the home page) -
And it is all very odd.
Perhaps an animated version of "Gone With The Wind" - a pixilated puppet thing with unauthorized Barbie dolls in all the female parts and unauthorized Ken dolls in the male roles (Rhett Butler and the others) - would be cool. (Barbie though has dumped Ken and her new beau is Blair, an Australian surfer-dude, to be introduced next month.) And we'll call it "Fahrenheit 460 - Jurassic Tara Burns to the Ground." Everyone can sue everyone else.
Well, frankly my dear, I don't give damn. There. I said it. So sue me.