Why Does Lego Get To Stop Spinal Tap From Using Lego Video?
from the answer:-no-good-reason dept
We recently wrote about the ridiculous job for lawyers making sure no unauthorized brands appear in a movie -- which doesn't have much of a legal basis. But, for some reason, companies back down on that sort of stuff all the time. The latest example involves the classic mockumentary band Spinal Tap, who is putting out a new DVD, where they thought (correctly) that it would be cool to include a fan-made video of one of their "hits," "Tonight I'm Gonna Rock You Tonight." The video was made by a then 14-year-old and was a stop-action video involving a lego version of the band and its fans:
Now, from Spinal Tap's point of view, this is a very cool way of connecting with fans: making use of a cool video in their DVD. In fact, they even played it up, and during a live performance where the video was shown, got real-life fans to mimic the lego fans, by holding their hands in the infamous "C" position of the plastic lego figures. But, of course, the lawyers got in the way. Lego objected to some of the words in the song and denied the use of the video on the DVD (oddly, the DVD still shows the fans with their hands, though it no longer makes any sense). But the real question is why Lego was even consulted. As Kimberley Isbell notes, Lego doesn't seem to have a legal leg to stand on here:
Lego justified its stance by citing the "commercial" nature of the Spinal Tap video. But can Lego really prohibit the use of their products in commercial videos? If you ask the federal courts, the answer is likely "no." It's a lesson that Mattel has repeatedly had to learn the hard way.But, unfortunately, the people putting together the Spinal Tap DVD did, in fact, cave in, and the video has not been included.
But that hasn't stopped trademark and copyright owners from trying. The court summarily rejected Wham-O's claims against Paramount Pictures for the unflattering use of its Slip 'N Slide toy in the movie "Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star." Caterpillar likewise had its claims against Walt Disney (relating to the portrayal of the brand in the oh-so-popular movie "George of the Jungle 2") shot down. Similar claims by Emerson Electric Co. (makers of the In-Sink-Erator garbage disposal) and the Canadian folk band the Wyrd Sisters also failed to go anywhere.