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 @ 2:29pm

    Which is why sneaking into the movie theater is usually not charged as theft of services/defrauding an innkeeper, but as commercial trespass. The movie theater tells the person to leave and the police give the person notice of trespass. If the person returns, they go to jail on misdemeanor trespass charges. A lot easier than going to court and dealing with $6-10 in damages.

    I'm not sure what you're basing that on. There are all kinds of theft statutes that consider the receiving of something of value without paying to be theft. Look at theft of cable service. That's theft because it's taking something of value without paying.

    For example, in New Jersey: "A person is guilty of theft if he purposely obtains services which he knows are available only for compensation . . . to avoid payment for the service. "Services" include . . . cable television . . . ." N.J. Stat. Ann. 2C:20-8(a).

    Or in New York: "A person is guilty of theft of services when . . . [w]ith intent to avoid payment by himself or another person of the lawful charge for any telecommunications service, including, without limitation, cable television service . . . which is provided for a charge or compensation . . . ." N.Y. Penal Law 165.15(4).

    Taking cable service without paying is theft, even though the cable company is pumping that same signal through those same wires whether you obtain it or not. It's the taking something of value without paying that matters. And it matters because it costs the cable company real time and money to provide that service. Just like it costs copyright owners real time and money to create the copyrighted work. They are given a property right in exchange for this effort.

    This has been debunked so many times here. It is not true based on the law or based on reality. A lost sale is not theft (at least until Congress passes a law that mandates profit.) There are many cases where an infringer acquires something of value while paying but not receiving what they paid for, or receiving the value they thought they were going to receive by paying.

    How does that disprove my point that copyright infringement is like theft of services because in each case someone obtains something of value--value created by the property holder--without paying the expected amount?

    Like every other argument you've is easier (according to you) to do what is easier for you, instead of doing what is easier for everyone else. How entitled are you?

    I am hitting "reply" in the proper fashion, as I said. I have no control over why TD doesn't display my replies appropriately. I merely suggested that it would be easier for you to use flattened view, since you can control that. I wasn't saying I'm entitled to anything. I'm not sure where you're coming from this stuff.

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