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.