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. icon
    Karl (profile), 10 Dec 2013 @ 6:01pm

    Re:

    Sorry, one more thing:

    I think it is granted because they earned those rights:

    The Mazer v. Stein quote does not say they were granted because they earned those rights. In their own words, "encouragement of individual effort by personal gain is the best way to advance public welfare."

    And that case itself cited two others, right before the quote you posted, which also make it clear that it is not the reason authors are granted copyrights. "The copyright law, like the patent statutes, makes reward to the owner a secondary consideration" (United States v. Paramount Pictures); it is granted "to afford greater encouragement to the production of literary [or artistic] works of lasting benefit to the world" (Washingtonian Pub. Co. v. Pearson).

    No, copyright is granted to benefit the general public. If the rights do not benefit the public, then they should not be granted, no matter how much authors "earned" them:
    It will be seen, therefore, that the spirit of any act which Congress is authorized to pass must be one which will promote the progress of science and the useful arts, and unless it is designed to accomplish this result and is believed, in fact, to accomplish this result, it would be beyond the power of Congress.

    [...] Not primarily for the benefit of the author, but primarily for the benefit of the public, such rights are given. Not that any particular class of citizens, however worthy, may benefit, but because the policy is believed to be for the benefit of the great body of people...
    - House Report on the Copyright Act of 1909

    So, yeah, it's totally immoral according to your standards.

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