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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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The War of the Lord of the Rings

The War of the Lord of the Rings

By on Jun 11, 2014 in Announcements, Film, News | 0 comments

Big licenses are often a source of serious conflicts, especially when the property has a strong following or is worth enormous amounts of money. In the case of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works, primarily The Lord of the Rings but also The Hobbit, both cultural cache and lucrative deals are a factor. A History of Trouble This has led to a number of lawsuits surrounding those properties, with a number of the bigger claims occurring in the 2000s, mostly revolving around people involved with the rights to the film feeling like they weren’t getting what they were owed. In the news now is the battle between the J.R.R. Tolkien Estate Limited and Warner Bros. over whether Warner has overstepped the bounds of its license (with Warner Bros. counterclaiming that the Estate has harmed Warner by improperly revoking certain rights). Why Now? While I am certain that there are many reasons that this suit is picking up steam, and you can click through to The Hollywood Reporter here to see some of the action, what it really boils down to is Warner’s recent move to license tie-ins that include online gambling games that use Tolkien’s works as a theme. Not only does that have the already-protective Estate upset, reason enough for them to challenge these download or cloud-based products, but they claim that it and works like it violate the limited right to create “tangible” products given to the studio under the agreement. An Old Agreement Apparently the source of contention is what the specific terms of that agreement were or meant, something you would hope to be contained in the four corners of the document itself, but with evidence (in the form of witnesses and work-product) being fought for tooth-and-nail by both sides it seems that things are messier than outsiders could have imagined. This is likely in part because the agreement is decades old, meaning that applying it to the current markets using the language of its day opens up room of interpretation… but we can’t know for certain right...

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Street Fighter 4: Latest to Marry Two Types of Gaming

Street Fighter 4: Latest to Marry Two Types of Gaming

By on Feb 27, 2014 in News, Videogames | 0 comments

“Gaming,” at least until fairly recently, has meant something very different to the general public than it does to people who play video- or tabletop games. With the explosion of the videogame market in the last decade that’s changing, but the association between the words “gaming” and “gambling.” And what does this have to do with Street Fighter? It was recently announced (Polygon’s brief article being a great introduction to the subject) by Capcom and Virgin Gaming that the two companies would be teaming up to provide a money match service for Street Fighter 4. This idea isn’t new to Virgin Gaming, as its business model is built around facilitating just that sort of exchange between online players, or to videogame players in general (that link explaining what exactly a “money match” is connects to a Super Smash Brothers wiki). If you’re not interested in following a link, money matches are exactly what they sound like; competitive matches in which a wager has been placed on the outcome. And if you’re not asking “wait, is that legal?” you are either already bored with this post or more on top of online gambling regulations that many. The law can be pretty confusing on the issue (and that’s without getting into the Federal Wire Act); many places online will tell you that games of skill are fully protected while games of chances are not, but in August 2013 a judge in the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals held that poker was a game of skill even while agreeing the defendant could be prosecuted under the Illegal Gambling Business Act. And then, just days ago, the Supreme Court refused to hear the defendant’s final appeal. So how are there so many skill-based gaming sites out there? Well, part of that relies on the fact that states have the freedom to legislate various types of events that have entry fees or prizes and to determine if these count as gambli ng. Every state is different, and it’s for this reason that many sites offering things like money matches will explicitly exclude states like Arkansas, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland and Tennessee (it’s worth noting that the site Skillz also excludes Connecticut, Illinois, Montana, South Carolina,...

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Vampire Creator Returns Via Kindle Worlds

Vampire Creator Returns Via Kindle Worlds

By on Feb 20, 2014 in Fiction, News | 0 comments

LJ Smith was the original writer for the popular series of Vampire Diaries novels, starting back in 1991, but in 2011 was fired by her publisher over a dispute as to what should happen in one of the stories. Considering that she was working the entire time under a somewhat extensive work-for-hire contract, meaning that Alloy Entertainment owned the property and works in their entirety because she was brought on to create the series for them, the series continued on without her even though it still had her name attached. Well, with Amazon dipping its toes into the world of fan fiction by letting people sell stories set in specially approved properties, it turns out that LJ Smith had an interesting opportunity. Yes, for those of you jumping ahead, the original creator and author of the Vampire Diaries novels is now writing and selling Vampire Diaries fanfiction [thanks to The Daily Dot for this one] in addition to her other projects. They’re also in the Top 5 Kindle Worlds sales at the moment, and the top two spots in the Teen section. I know that I’ve seen original authors accused of writing fan fiction in their own worlds before, but finishing the a trilogy as she originally planned instead of the direction the publisher took it (and getting 35%, IIRC, of the money from the sales) after getting fired? That’s new, at least for the Age of eBooks (having been recently reading about the glory days of printing piracy, I would be shocked if similar situations hadn’t popped up during that period). Anyone have additional thoughts or information? !!3 by Jūlija Mazhora on Flickr, available via Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY...

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