Copyright As Censorship: Lawyers Tell Show Inspired By 'The Princess Bride' To Prepare To Die

from the copyright-is-many-things-none-of-them-logical dept

The Princess Bride remains quite the iconic book and movie for tons of people who grew up in the 1970s and 1980s (and, hopefully, other ages as well... but I can only speak from experience). A huge number of lines have lived on from that movie and become mainstays in popular culture. And like all sorts of great culture, it has inspired plenty of additional creativity around the original as well. A guy named Joe Brack created a one-man show called My Princess Bride, in which he intersperses events and stories from his own life with elements of the book and movie:
While Brack does snippets of re-enactments, he intersperses such scenes with commentary. For example, during a solo parody of the iconic swordfight between Inigo Montoya and the man in black, Brack explains some of the history behind the obscure names of fencers that are thrown around in the dialogue.

But there is also plenty of personal material in the show: At one point Brack talks about the death of his grandmother in 2012.
And, guess what? Just as the one man show was about to come back, someone stepped in with a cease and desist letter, saying that the show infringed. While Brack won't say who sent the cease and desist, there's a pretty short list of whom it might be.

Brack's partner in putting on the show, Matty Griffiths, says they had explored the copyright issues before putting on the show and were reasonably confident that it was fair use -- and it would appear that they have a very strong fair use argument here. But... because of the stupid way our fair use laws work, the only way to definitively know if it's fair use is to spend megabucks on a lawsuit. So, instead, this bit of creativity that people seemed to enjoy... has been shut down. While the two guys seem willing to test it, the theater where they were going to put on the show has bailed out, citing the potential liability.

Yet another bit of creativity completely stomped out thanks to copyright.

Not only that, but it's turning fans of the original into... not fans:
“I’m gutted,” Brack says. “The past two days have been so hard. And whenever I’ve been bummed out and sad, I watch ‘The Princess Bride,’ and I can’t even do that now.”

He owns three copies of the book, and he’s reversed them in his bookcase to hide the titles.

“It feels like I’ve lost a friend,” he says.
Isn't copyright supposed to inspire creativity, rather than stomp it out?

Filed Under: culture, fair use, inspiration, joe brack, my princess bride, one man show, the princess bride


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Dec 2013 @ 1:44pm

    "Theft of services" is not considered theft in the same line as petty theft/grand theft. It is more akin to defrauding an innkeeper (which most states equate it to.) Much like copyright infringement, it is considered different under the law than theft. However, unlike copyright infringement, defrauding an innkeeper does result in real loss, since the innkeeper has a limited amount of supply and the theft prevents them from selling that supply to another person.

    But I think you miss the key point of the example of theft of services. Sneaking in to the theater without paying is theft, even if it didn't cost the theater anything as they were playing the movie anyway, because the person sneaking in ACQUIRES something without paying for it. Obviously, not everything we acquire without paying is theft. But certain intangibles, such as theater service, or copyright rights, are capable of being stolen nonetheless.

    Copyright infringement potentially results in loss of profit, but when there is an infinite supply of product, it is hard to say that the result prevents someone from selling the supply to another person.

    A loss of profits can certainly be a part of what makes it theft. But it's theft even if it's not a lost sale for the reasons just mentioned. The infringer acquires something of value without paying the part who has the right to exclude from acquiring that thing without paying for it.

    Also, please learn to internet. When you respond to someone, press "reply to this." It helps keep things in order and makes following the thread easier.

    I apologize for the replies not showing up correctly. That is beyond my control. I am clicking "reply" in the normal fashion. If you view it in "Flattened" view, it's easier.

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