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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 @ 1:23pm

    What if someone exercises their rights to silence someone who uses that ‘protected speech’ as part of a larger commentary on culture and life?

    Does that truly not count as censorship?


    In my opinion, no, it's not. Imagine if I own a plot of land, and there's a certain spot where people congregate to listen to other people make speeches. I can run the people off of my land if I don't like their speeches, and I can permit people whose speeches I do like to remain on my land. I'm not censoring those people I run off even though I'm doing it because I don't like what they're saying. I'm simply enforcing my property rights. The problem only arises because the speakers decided to use my property without permission in making their speeches in the first place. It's not censorship since they are free to spread their ideas without using my property in the process. The same holds true for intellectual property, like copyrights. The law privileges some uses of other people's copyrighted works without permission just as it permits some uses of other people's land without permission. But the person who uses other people's works or land runs the risk that the property owner won't agree that it's privileged, in which case he may assert his rights. Trying to frame it as "culture" doesn't mean much legally.

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