from the title-transfer dept
Meet Roland “Spanky” Macher. Spanky, a name by which I really must insist on calling him throughout this post, was a restaurant owner and real estate businessman before going to prison for 30 months for failing to pay his taxes and lying to the bankruptcy court. While in prison, he crafted his a how-to-business opus, which he titled “Slumlord Millionaire,” the title being an homage to the movie Slumdog Millionaire, except focused I guess on how to be a real estate douche. That book was self-published.
As was his lawsuit filing against Netflix, as Spanky is representing himself pro se in a copyright and trademark suit against the streaming giant, all because a Netflix series had an episode title that was also called “Slumlord Millionaire.”
Against Macher’s wishes, Netflix used the Slumlord Millionaire name for an episode of Dirty Money, an investigative series that uncovers acts of corporate greed and corruption, according to a $10 million lawsuit he filed last week in Roanoke’s federal court.
Netflix bestowed on Jared Kushner, a former White House advisor and real estate developer, the title of a book and television idea that Macher said he came up with for himself, while serving a 30-month sentence in federal prison.
I’ll post the pro se filing below so you can go read it for yourself. I’ll refrain from quoting it directly in this post, so stacked it is with grammar and spelling errors. It’s downright incomprehensible at times. But what is painfully obvious at the outset is that absolutely nothing that Netflix did is copyright or trademark infringement.
There is no specific claim of any actual copying other than the episode title, for instance. Instead, there is a great deal of exposition on how Spanky tried to get Netflix to do a show based on his book. Netflix did not do a show based on his book; it did an entirely different show and simply titled an episode of it “Slumlord Millionaire.” That is simply not copyright infringement. And, frankly, the claim that it is is quite rich coming from someone who lifted most of the name from a wildly popular movie.
As for trademark… nah, dawg. Nothing about naming an episode the way Netflix did calls the public mind to question whether Spanky or his self-published manuscript is in anyway involved. If there is no public confusion, there is no trademark infringement.
And what’s really irritating is that an outlet like Daily Progress should know all of this. And yet there is no mention in its post as to how absurd Spanky’s claims are. They are presented entirely dispassionately and without any input from an IP lawyer (or, hell, a Techdirt writer) who could have explained how dumb this suit is. Instead, you get quotes from Spanky like the following.
“But I sat here and said ‘dammit, I think I’m right,’” Macher said as he slapped the desk of his office. “I really believe I’m in a David and Goliath situation, and I’m fighting not only for myself but for all the little people who think they’re right.”
Narrator: he was not right, he was not David, and he was absolutely not fighting for anyone but himself. Also, his suit is stupid and he’s going to lose.