Chair Designer Sues Disney Over Chair Used In Alice In Wonderland Movie

from the down-the-rabbit-hole dept

Reader ScaredOfTheMan points us to the news that a chair designer is suing Disney for allegedly using one of “his” chairs in the movie Alice in Wonderland. He’s demanding a $50,000 “decoration fee.” We’ve pointed out the ridiculous lengths filmmakers must go to these days — with lawyers scouring every part of a film to make sure no intellectual property is used without a license, but at some point you have to just ask what these people are thinking. Imagine if every chair in every movie required a “decoration fee.” And if we’re doing chairs, then tables must be included as well. And couches. And doors. Don’t forget the windows. Wall paper on the walls? Did you pay the designer? Welcome to the logical conclusion of permission culture run amok.

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Companies: disney

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Comments on “Chair Designer Sues Disney Over Chair Used In Alice In Wonderland Movie”

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39 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

It would be nice to know what legal rights he alleges he holds because he would somehow have to assert such rights against what Disney has done. Copyright? Probably not since it is a utilitarian article. Design Patent? Probably not since most people have never even heard of such type of patent.

Any cite to the complaint?

Hulser (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It would be nice to know what legal rights he alleges he holds because he would somehow have to assert such rights against what Disney has done.

Agreed. Aren’t the documents used to file a lawsuit very explicit about which law is actually being broken? Or do the lawyers just make up terms like “decoration fee” and hope that no one notices they didn’t actually cite a law which was broken?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Yes, under rules of pleading one does have to state the legal basis for claims.

I know where the case was filed. I know the parties’ names. I cannot get access to the LAC Superior Court documents because the site demands search fees, document download fees, and a host of other fees.

Between fees such as this and PACER I am getting increasingly ticked off at my inability to access public documents without some agency (here the courts) holding me hostage for money. As much as I hate “fees” (a euphemism adopted by polititians so they can say “Hey, we held the line on taxes!”), I can see some tenuous rationale when human intervention is needed. But for God’s sake…we are talking about online access without any need for human intervention.

If techdirt wants to rant about something, put copyright, patents, etc. aside for a while and give this issue some much needed attention. We should not as taxpayers have to fork over more money for digital copies of public documents.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 "Fees"

I guess public libraries should start charging entrance fees.

Perhaps I should be charged a fee before being admitted to talk with a politico.

Same goes for public schools (over 50% of my property taxes).

Some things are simply fundamental government services, and I have a difficult time exempting our courts from such services.

Matthew says:

Re: Re: Re:4 "Fees"

I like to play Devil’s Advocate, so let’s talk about this.
As an ideal model, I agree with what you’re saying. Practically, however, I still feel like the idea needs to be mulled over. I assume that things aren’t actually this bad but suppose that the funds didn’t exist for there even to be a clerk at the courthouse to help you. Is it essential that they GIVE you the record or merely that it is available for you to access it? Would letting you into a room full of filing cabinets full of court decisions be sufficient? If you think that a clerk to help you locate the file in question is necessary, then consider the tradeoffs. What other services could/should a cash-strapped courthouse sacrifice to employ that clerk? As with most things government, many people demand more services than their tax dollars are sufficient to fund. Is this necessarily the case? I don’t know. Anecdotal evidence, at least, suggests that lots of local and state governments really do have to make choices like this.

JC says:

Re: Re: Re:5 "Fees"

Under US law, ignorance of the law is not a defense when you break the law. Therefore, under US law all citizens are “required” to know the law, by law.

Are you also saying that we should be required to pay money to know the law?

Imagine this hypothetical situation.

You want to do something, but you are not sure if it is legal (say start a business). So you decide that you need to obtain some money in order to pay people to find out if your new business will be legal. In order to make your money you get a job, as you are driving to your first day at McDonalds you get pulled over by a cop. You do not have a insurance (after all, you didn’t know you were required by law to have it – theres a fee for that). What now?

The idea of a fee based culture because “government agencies don’t have the money” is possibly one of the worst ideas I have ever heard.

Matthew says:

Re: Re: Re:3 "Fees"

If a library couldn’t afford to employ librarians without charging an entrance fee, then I might endorse an entrance fee.
If politicians couldn’t afford office supplies without charging constituents for their time, then I would endorse an audience fee.
Public schools… actually they sort of already charge a fee. Why are students being asked to provide paper towels, hand soap, and sandwich bags? (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/15/business/economy/15supplies.html)
The answer is simple: if the public demands a service but the tax dollars don’t exist to fund that service, then the government agency has to get creative. A citizen may begrudgingly pay the fee but they’d be even more cross if the service didn’t exist at all.

Berenerd (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“We should not as taxpayers have to fork over more money for digital copies of public documents.”

Have you tried to move your medical records lately? I had to move (damn layoffs) and it cost me 75$ to get a copy of my medical records for my new doctor because i wasn’t gonna drive 500 miles every time I needed to see a PCP. What is WORSE is that was HARD COPY! If I wanted to just download them it was well over $150!!!! This is information about ME! Why do I have to pay for MY information???

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Doesn't make sense...

It’s the same as payola vs license fees. Theyre not necessarily contradictory in the details, but they represent opposite ideas about which party profits from an exchange, and how much.

Anyway, is that free exposure and immortalization worth $50,000? Maybe not. Maybe he might get sued if he tries to use photos of his chair in the movie to sell his chairs. When you jump down the rabbit hole into fantasy lawyer land, anything goes.

Danny says:

Well...

I think this is just a marketing ploy. He wants to advertise that fact that he sells chairs just like the ones used in the movie but rather than advertise like most companies do he has figured out how to use the Streisand Effect to his advantage.

I’d wager he’ll drop the suit after a few weeks, just long enough to get him and his company’s name swirling around for a bit.

John Alvarado (profile) says:

Lame

It’s not like Disney is now manufacturing and selling these chairs. They are not competing with him! I deal with this issue in video games too–can’t use names and likenesses of real world weapons in a shooter game. It’s stupid.

The chair doesn’t even look like his chairs:
http://www.alibaba.com/product-free/107927161/CASINO_CHAIR/showimage.html

The guy is just a bottom-feeder looking to get a payoff to go away.

interval (profile) says:

Re: Disney?

I get the sentiment, but here’s a question: If you buy something, say, a chair, from some one, isn’t it your right to use that chair now as you see fit, up to an including as a movie prop? I mean, do you really need to license the chair’s image, outline, profile, what ever, as a separate fee? If that’s the case then any studio would need to pay such fees for every little item that might appear in a film, and clearly, that’s not possible. Seems to me that once I buy the damn chair, its mine, and that’s that. I think for once Disney’s on the right side of this.

rbilotta (profile) says:

What a delusional guy

First, it would be funny if he were suing under copyright in LA County court, because it should be dismissed right away because you can only sue in Federal Court for a copyright claim. Moreoever, though technically you have a copyright upon creation of an expressive work on tangible medium, you still have to register or try to register your copyright with with Copyright office before you sue.

And the chair design would probably not qualify for a copyright itself. A copyright is a protected expression work that can be transferred onto another medium, in other words, copyright is generally medium neutral. The design of chair could be protected by a design patent, but I doubt he has one of those either and he would still have to sue in Federal Court.

I would love to see the complaint.

bob says:

You clearly don't understand

You legally don’t need permission to use a regular carpet or chair or table. But this is a custom, one-off, queen’s throne, that normally the art department would design for tens of thousands of dollars. This is a feature art piece of the movie. But Disney just stole this guys artwork and put it in their movie to save money by stealing someone else’s. Clearly illegal and morally wrong to boot.

You are just writing this story from that viewpoint to be a troll and get more hits. Congratulations.

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