University Of The South Says No Creativity Allowed If It Involves Tennessee Williams' Characters

from the going-a-bit-far dept

If you’ve been following copyright for the last decade or so, you’re almost certainly aware of the lawsuit over a book called The Wind Done Gone. It was a reimagining of Gone With the Wind done from the eyes of another character. Yet, the holder of the copyright on Gone With the Wind sued. While a lower court sided with the copyright holder (in part because the judge seemed offended that anyone would try to do anything to Gone With the Wind), an appeals court overturned it. It looks like we may have another such situation on our hands, as the University of the South, who holds the copyright on Tennessee Williams’ plays, including A Streetcar Named Desire, is threatening to sue the guy behind a one-man satirical play called Blanche Survives Katrina in a FEMA Trailer Named Desire. It’s a play on Streetcar and the character of Blanche DuBois. It seems pretty clear that this is a legal, transformative use of a character — not a rip off of the original play at all. But, not according to the university who called it:

“infringements on the university’s valuable intellectual property rights.”

The university claims that a fair use defense doesn’t work, because the parody is not directed at the original work, but at current events. While the university is correct that a parody defense only works if the parody is directed at the original protected work, that doesn’t mean that other fair use factors won’t come into play. It seems like the play’s author and actor, Mark Sam Rosenthal, has a pretty strong fair use defense on a variety of factors including the fact that the parody is of both current events and the original play. Either way, it’s yet another example of copyright being used to stifle creativity, rather than promote it.

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Comments on “University Of The South Says No Creativity Allowed If It Involves Tennessee Williams' Characters”

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Comboman says:

Should have made it a musical

I guess the University of the South have never seen the Simpsons episode “A Streetcar Named Marge”. Oh wait, I guess they did.

By the way, “University of the South”? Are there really enough students in the former Confederate states capable of passing the SATs to warrant having any entire university down there? 😉

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Should have made it a musical

“By the way, “University of the South”? Are there really enough students in the former Confederate states capable of passing the SATs to warrant having any entire university down there? ;-)”

Unfortunately the SAT board helps them with the exams. And most of the universities I have seen down here in the south, since I have been here, are historically black universities. Problem with that is that a lot of them are teaching racism against whites, and a lot are losing accreditation because they are helping the students cheat.

Now I have had a lot of people yell at me for saying these things, but when you walk into a classroom and the instructor is standing in front of the class and verbally assaulting the one white kid in the class for existing and thinking that he is allowed to infiltrate the sanctity of a pure black university, I think the truth speaks for itself. Another issue is that there are classes that are labeled black culture classes. These classes teach how to work and manipulate government programs so that you can live on govt assistance all your life and never pay a dime for anything. Now this I saw at Albany State University, in Albany, GA. That town is as corrupt as you can get.

Home Invasions there have risen 200% since the elections. The chief reason suspects give for breaking and entering is that they feel that Obama has given them license to collect of the redistribution of wealth. What a crock.

skyrider (profile) says:

“And the South wonders why non-Southerners (and the more enlightened Southerners) hate the South.”

Don’t blame Southerners for this, blame all the lawyers they kicked out of New York and Los Angeles, the South is just where they happened to end up because nobody else in the country wanted them. (That includes East Texas.)

Yes, I am from the South, in a little burg in (South Carolina.)

Another thing: Here in the South, we have practiced ‘BuyItNow’ for ages before there was an internet and eBay, and many an auctioneer has been baffled by the story I tell them about the patent fight that happened over ‘BuyItNow.’

Vukovar says:

You should try living here...

Living in Birmingham, here’s some of the more interesting things I’ve been subjected to in the past few months:

The US Senate race ads that included this sentence: “That don’t fly down here.”

The very large, Confederate flag that flys right next to Interstate 65, just outside of Montgomery (state capitol).

I hear the phrase “… war of Northern Aggression …” at least once a month.

While originally from Wisconsin, I am referred to as a “Yankee.”

Our mayor – well, let me clarify – our federally indicted on 93 counts mayor, affectionately knwon as “La La” continually proposes a multi-million dollar domed stadium project out at the dog track. Did I mention that a) the city is on the verge of filing bankruptcy (and will be the largest bankruptcy of any municipality in history if they do) because of fiscal mismanagement with the sewer debt (see mayor’s indictment for bond-swap details). Oh – did I also mention that we have no professional sports team in Birmingham either? Before you say “College football” don’t forget they already have their own stadiums already.

Doug Hall says:

Re: You should try living here...

Re: Living in Birmingham, here’s some of the more interesting things I’ve been subjected to in the past few months:

The very large, Confederate flag that flies right next to Interstate 65, just outside of Montgomery (state capitol).

Yeah, that flag is offensive. But even though it’s right next to the interstate, it’s on private land, and protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. They could put up a swastika and we couldn’t do anything about it.

In the meantime, please don’t paint a picture of my city and state that’s just not true. We’re doing our best to get past racism, just like the rest of the country. The actions of a few have marred the efforts of the majority. It’s no longer 1955. Make no mistake, there will ALWAYS be racist rednecks in the South. But I claim that there will ALWAYS be _MORE_ decent, hard-working, live-and-let-live southerners who are not bothered by people whose skin happens to have more melanin than my own. That may not have always been the case, but it is now. We have bigger things to worry about.

Montgomery native

David Sogge says:


Is this not a State funded school? Taxpayer owned, I am having trouble understanding how the State can own a copyright…this should now be public domain…

“infringements on the university’s valuable intellectual property rights.”

How is this an infringement on intellectual property rights the University did not create “A Street Car Named Desire”…

kirillian (profile) says:

Racism in the South

I’m a native Southerner…and man, I never really met racism until I moved up farther North (I guess Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Minnesota really aren’t North, but they are close enough). I grew up in Texas…and damn you if you EVER called a black person an African-American…but up here, the white people seem to thinnk that calling someone black is just as offensive as ‘nigger’ (pardon my use in the academic sense here…) or such-like. Heck, my mom’s side of the family is all hick…and they could care less what color you were…

I don’t think you can lump the South into a big group of racists like that. Just like I don’t think that all Northerners are racists either (though I swear that about 60% of them have never seen a black person that was not named Obama…).

I think no matter where you go, there’s gonna be a little lack of understanding on anyone’s part…we used to make fun of Arkansas-ans for being the inbreds…

Robert Libbey, MD says:

Misinformation and bad assumptions

I am sorry to hear that U. of the South tried to block a creative work on copyright grounds– but I am not familar with the work and don’t know how much was copied (plagarized) vs. parodied. I do know, as an alumnus of U. of the South, 1987, that it is not a “redneck” place, nor any more racist than most of the rest of the country. Nor is it a state supported school. A private liberal arts college and theologic seminary, it was founded in the mid 1800’s by the southern Episcopal dioceses, at a time when young men either went to England or to New England for their education. It does have many cultural roots in both England and the pre-Civil war South; the original library was a gift from Oxford, and some of the first professors were former Confederate generals. The copyright to T. Williams’ play I understand was a gift along with financial assets to inspire creative writing, so I do hope that someone at the university handles this appropriately. But too many of the preceeding comments are made based on ignorant sterotypes. For what its worth, I’ve seen as much racism in Australia and Michigan as anywhere in the South– its ugly where ever its found.

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