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 @ 2:49pm

    Seriously, is your reply button broken? Or is participating in a threaded conversation too scary?

    I'm using a VPN. The reply button doesn't function because of some issue with my VPN and the TD website. Sorry, but that's the way it is.

    My point was that you raised "the bargain" as if copyright supporters have any moral ground to complain about broken bargains.

    I was making only a descriptive argument about the traditional view of the bargain. I think the calculus of that bargain is different now, as things are automatically copyrighted at fixation instead of upon publication. And that's certainly a good point to raise, one which I think shows that the purely utilitarian model is incomplete. But that's saying nothing about any normative view about the morality of it all. I think the moral argument is pretty simple. People put time and effort into creating works of art and are given property rights to promote such efforts. They get those rights because they earned those rights. They have a moral desert claim to them. There's all kinds of countervailing interests, as you well know, but at bottom the moral part of the argument is simple. There's other less-Lockean views as well which similarly conclude that the author has a moral claim to his works.

    Please don't confuse the creative processes of authors, filmakers, musicians, etc with the desire of the content industry corporations to make as much money as possible. Copyright provides incentives for the latter, but not the former.

    I think it's all one big system. The rights are what the authors and musicians have to bargain with. Without the authorial rights, there'd be no promotion and distribution system. Those copyrights are integral.

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