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Posts by Mike

WoT Pilot: We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

WoT Pilot: We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know

By on Feb 10, 2015 in Fiction, Film, News | 0 comments

Did you hear about the stealthy “pilot” for a tv series based on the much-acclaimed Wheel of Time series? Probably, as blogs on several geek and nerd/science and entertainment sites have spent time on the subject. Aside from the general surprise at a rather low-budget production for such a big property (airing without fanfare, in the middle of the night, as paid programming), is there much else to talk about? Well, there were two added twists: the nature of the production & broadcast are believed to have been a gambit to retain rights to the property by Red Eagle Entertainment, while author Robert Jordan’s wife appears to have commented that she was not aware of any such official project. This is all made very interesting by two additional twists: in 2008 it was reported that Universal Pictures paid a large amount of money for the film and television rights to the property, with Red Eagle handling the potential production, and the rights were set to revert back to the original owners as of this Wednesday (02/11/2015). This latter sort of clause has a history, notably with several contracts Marvel Comics engaged in before their eventual success in the film industry, allowing the owner of a work to regain property it has licensed to other parties if those parties don’t do anything with it. Who Is Red Eagle? A few of the articles I linked to give much more information, but here is a summary. Red Eagle, the company that optioned the film rights for the first novel back in the early 2000s (I have seen the year 2000 mentioned several times, but cannot find confirmation of that particular year), has been the source of numerous disappointments when it comes to the Wheel of Time property. There were short-lived comic book series, promises of videogames followed by mishandled crowdfunding initiatives or missed opportunities, and even Jordan himself wrote scathingly of the company before he died. But Can They Even Do That? Maybe. And it seems more likely than a few people are making it out to be, unless the people in charge of Red Eagle are far more foolish than they seem (yes, even given the above). Until we find out more about the relationship of any production agreements or...

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Should Authors Panic Over ‘Gravity’ Case?

Should Authors Panic Over ‘Gravity’ Case?

By on Feb 2, 2015 in Announcements, Film, News | 0 comments

  Not yet. Excuse me while I brush off a bit of the dust on my keyboard. Now, if you are a creative type or movie buff that hasn’t seen articles with big headlines about Tess Gerritsen‘s suit against Warner Brothers over money she claims is owed due to the production of the film Gravity [I originally linked to the film’s official site, but dislike websites that auto-play sound]. Some blogs aimed at writers and screenwriters have made a larger deal of the impact this could have on future contracts with studios. Why? Well because it looks like if you sell a property to a studio and that studio later gets acquired by another company, the new owner could use your work without having to honor the original studio’s responsibilities. And that would be bad. I just don’t think we’re there, and any talk of precedent (in the important legal sense) is probably extremely premature considering that all we have a is an order based on preliminary motions.   So What’s Going On? The crux of Gerritsen’s position is this: 1) The rights to her book were purchased by the Katja Motion Picture Corp., an arm of New Line Productions, Inc. 2) The contract between her and Katja was guaranteed by New Line, who it was understood would actually be making the movie; she claims that Katja was a wholly-owned subsidiary of New Line that it used to acquire and develop literary property. 3) The movie was in the works with, unknown to Gerritsen at the time, the future director of Gravity attached to direct and he would have been given her book as well as additional material. 4) She created a modified version of the story for production that’s more like the movie than the book initially was. 5) The director and his son sometime later wrote a screenplay that not only is very similar to her novel, including a fidelity to scientific details, but to the additional modifications she produced for Katja. 6) Warner Brothers acquired control of New Line and Katja, and therefor all its rights and obligations regarding her work. 7) A year later the director and son transferred all their rights to their Gravity project to Warner Brothers. 8) Her...

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Sherlock Holmes & The Case For Public Domain

Sherlock Holmes & The Case For Public Domain

By on Nov 3, 2014 in Announcements, Fiction, News | 0 comments

As an attorney with clients concerned about protecting creative works, I am a big fan of copyright law. I especially appreciate the original intent of the law; to encourage the addition of new creative works to our society’s culture, including derivative works, by granting creators a limited window of exclusive rights to the work’s use. You might even say I am pretty enthusiastic about making sure clients protect themselves and defending those rights for clients. Over the last 75 years or so, however, there have been many changes to how the legislature and some courts approach copyright law. This has gone on to the point where many people seem to believe that the sole purpose of copyright law is to protect the creator’s exclusive rights, and the intended benefits to society as a whole are forgotten or misrepresented as being the fractional economic bump from a handful of financially successful works. It’s that change in the public understanding that made seeing Judge Posner‘s opinion in Leslie S. Klinger v. Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. this past June so refreshing, and as today the Supreme Court officially refused to hear the appeal by the Doyle estate I thought I’d talk about why. The case revolved around an author named Leslie Klinger (well known by some as being responsible for annotated works like The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, which sits handsomely on my shelf, and The Annotated Sandman) who was co-editor on an anthology of new Holmes fiction in 2011. At that time he paid the Doyle estate a licensing fee, but when it came time for a sequel anthology Klinger insisted that it was not necessary and eventually asked a federal court to issue a declaratory judgment that would support his position. The Conan Doyle Estate took the position that, while obviously many of the Sherlock Holmes works were old enough to fall into public domain, the works still protected by copyright  (ten published post-1923) were so informative to the character that even the public domain elements should be off-limits. Judge Posner wrote: More important, extending copyright protection is a two-edged sword from the standpoint of inducing creativity, as it would reduce the incentive of subsequent authors to create derivative works (such as new...

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Copyright & Games: Is the Law Changing?

Copyright & Games: Is the Law Changing?

By on Sep 16, 2014 in Announcements, Boardgames, Fiction, RPGs, Videogames | 0 comments

Short Answer: Nope   Over the last year or so I’ve seen a number of people reacting to a few intellectual property cases in the videogame world with interest. Often the gut reaction is to condemn one company or another, sometimes taking aim at both for different reason, and every so often there are folks who wonder aloud if this is going to be the case which changes the general rule that games are not protected under copyright law. The short answer in pretty much every instance is that, no, games are not going to suddenly slide under that umbrella. Why? Because Section 102 of the Copyright Act says that the law protects: “…original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.” And goes on in 102(b) to specifically exclude: “…any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is describe, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such a work.” Games are generally pretty bound up in and defined by the elements listed above, which means that while the language describing rules, the art, or the background fiction might all be original expressions you can protect under copyright law there is no room for simple ideas or what the courts might describe as mere functional elements. That said? If you want to know more, read on.   Long Answer: No, But…   Well the law is always changing, because court decisions are part of the law, and in this arena there have been a large number of decisions over the past few decades. There is a recent case that highlights how the line between the protectable expression of an idea and a functional procedure may not be as clear as people would like it to be. In DaVinci Editrice S.R.L. v.  ZiKo Games, LLC, et al. the federal judge on the case recently issued an initial opinion in response to various motions by the parties, and in crafting her opinion Judge Rosenthal draws on a large body of existing case law to argue about where system crosses over with original expression. Some...

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Documentaries & Drama: The D&D Story

Documentaries & Drama: The D&D Story

By on Jul 16, 2014 in Film, General, RPGs | 0 comments

Dungeons & Dragons is the most famous roleplaying game in the world, and when a group of people decided to make a documentary about it in preparation for the 40th anniversary there was a good deal of support. How much support? The Kickstarter for Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary brought in $195,480. Things seemed to be going well. Then, last year, there was a falling out between the producers. Followed by an announcement that two of the producers would be doing a documentary, on the same subject as the original, called The Great Kingdom. The Kickstarter for The Great Kingdom has 4 days left at this point and has only raised roughly half of the money required to hit the campaign’s goal. Why? Many reasons, I’m sure, but one of them is likely the lawsuit. A number of sites have provided extensive coverage of the details as they came to light (such as The Verge and the very prolific Michael Tresca over a Examiner.com, but the legal issues boil down to an accusation that the producers who have split away are using material they have no rights to in the production of this unrelated film. The producers of The Great Kingdom claim to have used nothing but their own work: We started from scratch, raising private funds and some of our own to get us to this point. We knew there was an amazing story to tell. And like any complicated story, there will always be room for different interpretations. But their former partners disagree, in an update to backers: We would never object to competition, our position is that they have wrongfully attempted to use the assets of this film in their own, competing documentary. The sad part is that this all comes after a settlement that was reached when the relationships within the original company went awry, and is exactly the sort of thing that can happen when a business falls apart… and it will always, always be worse if those involved either haven’t agreed upon a contractual relationship or (more commonly, maybe) paid attention to their contractual responsibilities to one another. The sad part is that for such a relatively small industry, there is a history of intense disagreements and legal...

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