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 @ 9:59am

    In almost all common uses "censorship" refers to speech that is quashed for going against what those in power want to represent on either a factual or editorial basis. While technically this is censorship in that it is preventing speech, it does not fall under the common usage and thus weakens it. This is a dangerous, dangerous position to take, particularly when there ARE several cases where copyright law is the hammer used to censor actual criticism (such as taking down transcripts of political speeches, or Donna Barstow claiming copyright on her signature to take down articles critical of her abysmal cartooning). This case stands in stark contrast to that because it's a 'standard' copyright claim and has nothing to do with quashing criticism.

    I agree. Censorship is when an idea is suppressed because the censor doesn't like that idea. Enforcing property rights isn't censorship just because those property rights happen to involve speech. Part of the bargain of copyright is that the copyright holder has certain exclusive rights over his protected speech. That control isn't "censorship" when exercised.

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