Fox About To Get Paid For A Movie It Had Absolutely Nothing To Do With

from the screwy-copyright-laws... dept

Back in August, we noted just how silly it was that 20th Century Fox was suing Warner Bros. Studios over the movie The Watchmen. Fox had purchased the rights to make a movie out of the graphic novel decades ago, but decided not to make the movie. After the project bounced around at a few different studios, Warner took it on, and the movie is considered one of the most anticipated blockbusters of 2009. Yet, in a somewhat surprising move (since he'd originally said a trial would be needed next year), a judge has ruled that Fox does, indeed, own a copyright interest in the movie. This almost certainly means that Warner will come to some form of a settlement pretty quickly, so as not to delay or hinder the movie in any manner. In effect, that means that Fox is about to get a pretty big pay day for doing absolutely nothing on a movie that it didn't want to make. That seems to go against everything copyright is supposed to stand for.

Now, obviously, it's pretty stunning that Warner would make this movie without its lawyers being sure that Warner owned all the rights to the film, but as we wrote in the original post, it seems rather silly to sell movie "rights" in the first place. There are plenty of mechanisms to make sure that the original creator of a story can get paid when his or her story is adapted that don't require copyright -- and allowing multiple parties to try to make a film out of a single story should lead to better overall film making. Fox didn't want to make this movie, so Warner stepped up and made a movie that many are expecting to be fantastic. Why should Fox be rewarded for its own failure to make a movie?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    LDoBe, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 10:57am

    Trolling?

    It's just laughable that our country would allow this type of thing to go on. It obvious that the U.S. Cares far more for the well being of monopoly institutions such as movie studios and the **AA than it does about how laws are justified, and how the originators of content (read artists) make out in comparison. The way CEOs are paid is just obscene. Our culture is rotting away. We need to completely rewrite all laws pertaining to "intellectual property"

     

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      :Lobo Santo, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:09am

      Re: Trolling?

      Golden Rule, eh? The hombre who has the gold, makes the rules. The movies studios got cash, so they can buy favorable laws...

       

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    Herr John, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:01am

    Give in...

    Give more and more power to that government! Yes... yes... soon, we will be burning books that don't agree with the government pitch, then rounding up people who don't agree and throwing them into camps... and then... well... let's just say that goosestepping will make a comeback!

     

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    Twinrova, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:03am

    Warner should cancel the release.

    That'll show Fox, trying to capitalize on the situation. Let Fox make the movie and watch it tank as fans boycott the film altogether.

    Despite its anticipated release, this should be a message to movie goers worldwide on the reason ticket prices continue to skyrocket.

    Now the fan is going to pay for it eventually with higher prices. Lawsuits aren't free and if there's "sharing" involved with the profits, you can bet Warner's going to try to make up for it once the original cost of the picture is made.

    What truly sucks in all this will be the sequel. If Warner has done an exceptional job of adaptation, a sequel will never happen as Fox clearly has no clue on how to make decent movies.

     

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      chris (profile), Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:07pm

      Re: Warner should cancel the release.

      What truly sucks in all this will be the sequel. If Warner has done an exceptional job of adaptation, a sequel will never happen as Fox clearly has no clue on how to make decent movies.

      if the film follows the graphic novel at all, there is no way to make a sequel. a prequel maybe...

       

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    Adam Brown, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:20am

    Didn't they pay someone else?

    Didn't they pay Marvel for the distribution rights to the movie? If Marvel sold the distribution rights to Fox 20 years ago, then they didn't have the authority to sell the rights again!

    Sounds like Warner Bros. should sue Marvel or demand their money back.

     

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      fuse5k, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:32am

      Re: Didn't they pay someone else?

      you hit the nail on the head there, the only people getting rich are the lawyers on this one...

       

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    shmengie, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:25am

    unfortunately, i'm with fox on this one

    as you mentioned, wb dropped the ball in not making sure the rights were cleared. it's fox's property to do with as they please, at last under current copyright law (which sucks). i mean, fox should burn in hell for excessive douchebaggery, but that's another matter.

     

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    Wiggins, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:29am

    Not Marvel

    The Watchmen is actually a D.C. property, DC is a division of Warner Brothers.
    On an interesting note, the actual creator of the work, Alan Moore, is getting much pleasure out of this current situation. Though I doubt he will actually see much or any profit out of the movie, as DC has a history of screwing him out of any proceeds they make off his brilliant and "inherently unfilmable" work.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:31am

    Guys, give them a little credit. Fox paid something for the rights. Maybe they were waiting until the time was right to make a watchmen movie, but they never can, now that WB has already made it. WB is sucking the value out of an IP that Fox paid for, and for that they deserve some compensation. If you dont like that, then follow the money back one step further where this system of money and accountability resulted, no doubt, in the comics publisher (and ultimately, one hopes, Alan Moore) getting a nice little payment from Fox for the movie rights. I dont necessarily like this system, but the system is at least in principle set up to make sure the right people get compensated, and in this case FOX is the right people (since they already paid)

     

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      Hulser, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:07pm

      Re:

      In the context of current IP laws/precedent, Fox owns the rights to a Watchmen movie and deserves payment. Yes, the "property" was sitting unused (virtually speaking) in the back of a dusty storage room, but it was there. However, when Mike asks...

      "Why should Fox be rewarded for its own failure to make a movie?"

      ...I think the "should" refers to how he thinks the system should operate if copyright was implemented fairly or at least as originally intended, not as it is today.

      Personally, I don't see a problem (in principal) with a content creator/owner selling the movie rights to their art work. Sure, the Watchmen example is extreme, but I think it would strike most people as fair that the author of a comic book should profit somehow if they make a movie of the comic book (and, by extension, that if the author sold the rights to a third party, that the third party should also profit.)

       

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      chris (profile), Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:15pm

      Re:

      Fox paid something for the rights. Maybe they were waiting until the time was right to make a watchmen movie, but they never can, now that WB has already made it. WB is sucking the value out of an IP that Fox paid for, and for that they deserve some compensation.

      you can always make something again. the bourne identity was a TV miniseries in the 80's before it became a big budget action film. the lord of the rings was a cartoon in years past.

      exclusive deals that tie up rights are a detriment to all the parties involved.

       

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        Hulser, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 1:33pm

        Re: Re:

        exclusive deals that tie up rights are a detriment to all the parties involved.

        You can probably make a case that exclusive movie rights harms the overall public, but it's laughable to suggest that this kind of arrangement is detrimental to all parties involved. I'm sure that the artists who sell the movie rights and get a big fat check don't feel harmed. I'm sure that the movie studio which is able to shut out its competition doesn't feel harmed. You may not agree with the system that allows for exclusive movie rights, but it wouldn't happen if somebody didn't profit.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 30th, 2008 @ 10:12am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Humans are funny creatures. It's been shown that people will turn down the offer of $10 if it means someone else gets $90. People will actively make themselves worse off in the long run because things don't seem fair. Yeah, you're right, someone somewhere is getting some benefit from this system, but that doesn't mean it's the best system, even for them.

           

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          chris (profile), Dec 30th, 2008 @ 12:54pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          it's laughable to suggest that this kind of arrangement is detrimental to all parties involved. I'm sure that the artists who sell the movie rights and get a big fat check don't feel harmed. I'm sure that the movie studio which is able to shut out its competition doesn't feel harmed.

          i'll bet the checks to the artists for these deals aren't that fat to begin with, and even if they are, the artist could make more by selling the rights multiple times.

          shutting out the competition only works out if they don't return the favor. if preemptively buying rights becomes standard operating procedure in the film industry, the cost of making more movies will continue to go up.

          spending a lot on a production doesn't automatically make it successful. spending less on a production makes it easier for said production to become profitable.

           

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      Sal, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 3:25pm

      Re: Credit???

      Fox bought the rights and after working on it for a while, they chose to stop development. Now that Warner has a movie in the can and ready to release Fox SUDDENLY steps up and says not so fast??? Where were they when this project was announced three (give or take) years ago? This is nothing more than legalized (questionable imho) blackmail. The decision SHOULD have been that Fox is still free to develop their own lapsed project or perhaps a "refund" (plus interest?) of their original payment for the movie rights.

       

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    Dude101, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:32am

    Fox owned rights to it

    WB should have done their homework and settled with FOX long ago. Just because FOX decided not to make the movie doesn't mean that someone can come along and oust the original owner for sitting on their butt. FOX had no choice but to go after WB.

     

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      Mike (profile), Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:45am

      Re: Fox owned rights to it

      FOX had no choice but to go after WB.

      Actually, they had plenty of choices.

       

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      Michael Beck, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 1:58pm

      Re: Fox owned rights to it

      I agree!

      and I also take issue with this statement:

      "There are plenty of mechanisms to make sure that the original creator of a story can get paid when his or her story is adapted that don't require copyright -- and allowing multiple parties to try to make a film out of a single story should lead to better overall film making."

      That is crazy! The laws are not there just to insure someone gets paid for IP.. It ensures that the holder of the IP has control over what others do with it. If I wrote a story, I would not want someone to come in and make a crappy version of it for film.

       

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        Mike (profile), Dec 29th, 2008 @ 2:57pm

        Re: Re: Fox owned rights to it

        That is crazy! The laws are not there just to insure someone gets paid for IP.. It ensures that the holder of the IP has control over what others do with it. If I wrote a story, I would not want someone to come in and make a crappy version of it for film.

        IP laws were not intended for such control purposes.

        Besides, in that effort to stop someone from making a crappy version, you're also denying plenty of opportunities to make a fantastic, wonderful version of it.

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 30th, 2008 @ 10:15am

        Re: Re: Fox owned rights to it

        It ensures that the holder of the IP has control over what others do with it. If I wrote a story, I would not want someone to come in and make a crappy version of it for film.

        If that's true, explain all the crappy movies that come out of Hollywood. Dark Knight aside, there's been almost nothing of real value in over a decade.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:58am

    Warner Bothers should offer 30% of the profit to FOX as a quick settlement. As everybody know due to movie accounting the never make a profit, so FOX will get nothing.

     

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      chris (profile), Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:18pm

      Re:

      As everybody know due to movie accounting the never make a profit, so FOX will get nothing.

      that's probably why fox is doing this, so it gets real money, not an imaginary percentage of some accounting magic.

       

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    David, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 11:59am

    to be fair...

    The Producer had to return to Fox if he was able to set it up elsewhere so that Fox could reconsider their option. The Producer made a mistake in not returning to Fox and getting clearance. Hollywood is always oriented towards being afraid to say yes until someone else says so first and covering your ass in these cases. This is a standard clause and procedure on all option contracts, and the Producer, who has been making movies for many years should have known this. So eventhough it is unpleasant, there is no way that the judge would have ruled for Fox unless Fox's contract was legally binding. If the situation was reversed, you can be damn sure that WB would have done the same (and I'm sure has in the past).

     

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    Ima Fish, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:07pm

    "Fox is about to get a pretty big pay day for doing absolutely nothing... that seems to go against everything copyright is supposed to stand for."

    What planet do you live on? In the US copyright is specifically designed so that copyright holders are able to sit on their asses in perpetuity and get paid for it.

    Now if you're talking about the good old days, when copyrights only lasted 15 years, you're probably correct. With a 15 year limit copyright holders were actually forced to get off their buts and do stuff every so often in order to ensure a revenue stream.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 12:34pm

    That's good business. You don't do anything and you get paid. pure genius...Also, I don't like Fox.

     

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    John, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 1:08pm

    How did this happen?

    For as long as I can remember, DC Comics (who published Watchmen) has always been owned by Time Warner, who also owns Warner Bros studios. Why was any DC property sold to another film studio?
    (I know, the obvious answer is that they considered Watchmen "unfilmable", so they took money from Fox for a movie they knew would never be made.)

    Second, didn't the Warner Bros' lawyers make sure that they had the legal rights to product the movie?
    Or is Fox only suing now that the movie has been made and is looking to become a big hit in March? I doubt Fox really cared about their rights so long as the movie was "unfilmable".

    And with a planned release date in March, you can bet that Fox will be pressuring Warner Bros to make a settlement rather than see their film get delayed.

     

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    Jahon, Dec 29th, 2008 @ 2:54pm

    FOX is a waste of space.

    Everything from there sports to there news reporting is painful to watch. Now there are trying to get a pay day off of something they first didnt have the balls to make. It is just wrong. They shouldnt see a cent from WB.

     

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    Mark Regan, Dec 30th, 2008 @ 1:56am

    That's Nothing

    I've got some relatives who are getting paid royalties for NOT writing a book of the bible. You see, back in the day, they signed a contract with some guy who wanted to write the true story of the Apostle Peter, and then he decided NOT to write the story, but verbally told someone about what he was going to write.

    That person did a writeup of the ides, sold it to some Pope, and he published it back in the year 400 in some early edition of the Bible, and an ancestor of mine who was related to the guy who came up with the original idea sued the Pope, and our family has been collecting royalties ever since, the counterfeit book was pulled from the Bible, and we now are filthy rich.

     

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