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The Copyright Battle Over Custom-Built Batmobiles

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the lost-their-wheels dept.

Transportation 194

Hugh Pickens writes writes "Eriq Gardner writes that Warner Brothers is suing California resident Mark Towle, a specialist in customizing replicas of automobiles featured in films and TV shows, for selling replicas of automobiles from the 1960s ABC series Batman by arguing that copyright protection extends to the overall look and feel of the Batmobile. The case hinges on what exactly is a Batmobile — an automobile or a piece of intellectual property? Warner attorney J. Andrew Coombs argues in legal papers that the Batmobile incorporates trademarks with distinctive secondary meaning and that by selling an unauthorized replica, Towle is likely to confuse consumers about whether the cars are DC products are not. Towle's attorney Larry Zerner, argues that automobiles aren't copyrightable. 'It is black letter law that useful articles, such as automobiles, do not qualify as "sculptural works" and are thus not eligible for copyright protection,' writes Zerner adding that a decision to affirm copyright elements of automotive design features could be exploited by automobile manufacturers. 'The implications of a ruling upholding this standard are easy to imagine. Ford, Toyota, Ferrari and Honda would start publishing comic books, so that they could protect what, up until now, was unprotectable.'"

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As an art student... (5, Informative)

SeaFox (739806) | about 2 years ago | (#42460871)

I would argue the automobile is a sculpture, and therefore protect-able from exact replication using blueprints/tooling. However, like any work of art, it is an interpretation by the artist. If I make a Batmobile-looking car I am making what my interpretation of the Batmobile is, it's not the same as making a Batmobile. As long as I do not sell the item claiming it is, in fact, a real Batmobile or use trademarked brands on the car or in it's promotion then I should be okay.

Re:As an art student... (3, Insightful)

CAIMLAS (41445) | about 2 years ago | (#42460905)

Vehicles from the 1940s through 1970s, and into the 80s? Sure they are - or can be, at least.

But pretty much every automobile today is just a stylized wind tunnel tested form. They're somewhat more unique than the crap from about a decade ago and have unique bumpers, grills, etc. but for the most part there's little to distinguish them from each other, with rare exception. VW is making cars that look like Porche; BMW is making cars that look like Cadillac; and so on.

The original Batmobile (from the 60s show)? I'm sorry, but even as a kid it was pretty obvious there wasn't much distinctive about the car. They put some stylized fins on it, painted it like his underwear, and put a cockpit and jet propulsion on it to say "look, it goes fast". Sorry. That's like saying an iPhone is art: how, exactly, does it deviate from commonly expected definitions of whatever it serves functionally? It doesn't.

Re:As an art student... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461145)

Vehicles from the 1940s through 1970s, and into the 80s? Sure they are - or can be, at least.

But pretty much every automobile today is just a stylized wind tunnel tested form. They're somewhat more unique than the crap from about a decade ago and have unique bumpers, grills, etc. but for the most part there's little to distinguish them from each other, with rare exception.

You're wrong. You can feel that way if you'd like, but it's simply not true.

VW is making cars that look like Porche;

It's "Porsche", and yes, they are, because Porsche is part of the Volkswagen Audi Group. So is Lamborghini, in case you were wondering. And the reason the Porsche Cayenne and VW Toureg look alike is... because they're basically the same car.

BMW is making cars that look like Cadillac; and so on.

I would argue that it's the other way around... Caddy has been trying to take on BMW for the last decade, and finally having some success at it. Still, it's not like somebody would confuse an ATS for a 3-series based on looks. The ATS is much more angular, as are all Caddies, because of Cadillac's "Science and Technology" design language. BMW's Bangle butt, on the other hand...

The original Batmobile (from the 60s show)? I'm sorry, but even as a kid it was pretty obvious there wasn't much distinctive about the car. They put some stylized fins on it, painted it like his underwear, and put a cockpit and jet propulsion on it to say "look, it goes fast". Sorry. That's like saying an iPhone is art: how, exactly, does it deviate from commonly expected definitions of whatever it serves functionally? It doesn't.

Absolutely nothing distinctive about the car... except, oh, I don't know, that it was based on the Lincoln Futura concept car, which was a one off with discinctive styling on its own, which was then fairly extensively customized by George Barris. But I guess none of that is 'distinctive'... /s

Re:As an art student... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461299)

because of Cadillac's "Science and Technology" design language

Ugh, too early in the morning, and not enough caffeine in the world, man... "Art and Science", not "Science and Technology", I'm an idiot.

Re:As an art student... (1)

Kartu (1490911) | about 2 years ago | (#42461597)

Except Porsche has become part of VW in late 2009.
Do you know how long it takes to develop a new car?
You think that's doable in 2-3 years?

Ok then, try to explain why VW Caddy and Renault Kangoo looks so similar.
Or Renault Laguna and Ford Mondeo, or Mazda 6.
Or Renault Wind and Ford Ka or Mazda 3.

Re:As an art student... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42461717)

BZZT wrong.
They started collaborating in 1969 with the 914 which used a VW engine.

By 2002 they were using the same SUV platform. It is used for the VW Toureg, the Audi Q7 and the Porsche Cayenne.

Since 2005 Porsche owned almost 20 percent of VW. This brought to already close companies further together.

The companies merged in 2009, but that has nothing to do with what the GP was talking about.

The VW Caddy and the Kangoo do not look anything alike. The post 2008 models look even more extremely different in windshield angle and overall shape.

Mondeo aka Fusion is built on the same platform as the Mazda 6.

The Ka and the 3 are also derived from a similar collaboration.

Re:As an art student... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42461795)

Ford Ka and Mazda2 share a platform, Mazda 3 is bigger. Sorry the GP confused me with his nonsense.

Re:As an art student... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#42461981)

Ok then, try to explain why VW Caddy and Renault Kangoo looks so similar.
Or Renault Laguna and Ford Mondeo, or Mazda 6.
Or Renault Wind and Ford Ka or Mazda 3.

What you're missing is that this is the way it has long been. Charger, Challenger, Super Bee, for example. Or Camaro, Firebird, Trans Am. Most designs from GM, Chrysler or FoMoCo are sold under three different marques! Only flagship vehicles and trucks are exceptions.

Re:As an art student... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461357)

Sorry. That's like saying an iPhone is art

You know, all the Apple and Steve Jobs fans are going to be up in arms now.

Re:As an art student... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42461589)

I wish you were correct. They only really decent wind tunnel designs I ever see are on either hybrids or supercars which is another wind tunnel design for another purpose.

Porsche is a VW brand, they share many platforms. Cadillac is the one ripping off BMW. They have been trying to fight the 3 and 5 series for years.

Re:As an art student... (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 years ago | (#42462003)

I wish you were correct. They only really decent wind tunnel designs I ever see are on either hybrids or supercars which is another wind tunnel design for another purpose.

The Nissan 240SX, introduced in 1989, has a Cd of 0.26, which makes it competitive with hybrids. They get 30 mpg on the highway in stock form, without driving them especially carefully, and they have an extremely primitive engine by modern standards. It's a truck motor basically, but Nissan used it in everything. There's a single cam and a twin cam and the difference is negligible and it's cheaper to get a reground cam when you only need one. One of the best cars ever made.

Re:As an art student... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42462259)

I agree, but I was looking at cars made this century really.

Cars in my part of the world are pretty rusty by 10 years old and gone by 20 if they are daily drivers. The

Re:As an art student... (2)

rossdee (243626) | about 2 years ago | (#42461711)

"VW is making cars that look like Porche;"

I wonder who designed the original VW - the one with the rear mounter horizontally opposed air cooled engine...

Re:As an art student... (3, Funny)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42461765)

That guy really should have made a sports car at some time. We can only dream.

Re:As an art student... (4, Funny)

dugjohnson (920519) | about 2 years ago | (#42460927)

An art student AND a lawyer...that is not a combination you see every day.

Re:As an art student... (4, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 2 years ago | (#42460993)

Your insinuation that only lawyers are entitled to an opinion on the application of copyright is misguided. Understanding copyright is everybody's business. Unless you never write a line of code or post to a blog or Twitter, copyright's ever-widening reach ensnares you, too. Know the basics, or risk finding yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.

Obviously, the more financial stake you have in the output of your keyboard, the more research and expert consultation you'll require.

If you disagree with grandparent, argue on the merits of his/her interpretation.

Re:As an art student... (4, Informative)

dugjohnson (920519) | about 2 years ago | (#42461065)

I actually CAN'T argue with his interpretation, since IANAL. He contends that an automobile is sculpture. There is, as I understand it, a large body of law that would say that it is not. I could argue that there is more of a correlation between fashion and the styling of automobiles...fashion which is also not copyrightable for some of the same reasons.
I DO understand copyright, in so far as it affects my life as a writer of software (it does) but in this case, the bat-mo-people are arguing trademark with a crossover into copyright and derivative works.
I suppose I could have just said, "No, your interpretation is probably wrong", but this is /.

Re:As an art student... (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 2 years ago | (#42461613)

the bat-mo-people are arguing trademark with a crossover into copyright and derivative works.

That's what I think, too. Batmobile should be a trademark issue and the copyright argument seems like an unwarranted stretch. I'm kind of glad I'm not a lawyer, since I don't need to attempt to persuade a judge that up is down and black is white.

Re:As an art student... (2)

dugjohnson (920519) | about 2 years ago | (#42461999)

I'm kind of glad I'm not a lawyer, since I don't need to attempt to persuade a judge that up is down and black is white.

I agree. MFWAL (My father was a lawyer) and he was paid to defend people, whether what they did was right or wrong...and he was very good at his job. So if a lawyer is paid to argue that up is down and black is white, that the lawyer will do.
My father didn't always win (USUALLY, but not always) and I can remember him talking to a con in prison on the phone...very pleasant, cordial, helpful, polite. I questioned him about why he was so nice to the guy, who really was "not a nice person". His reply..."Everybody else is beating up on him in there, somebody should be good to him."
Not all lawyers are evil. That said, I don't think I could do it for a living.

Re:As an art student... (2)

loufoque (1400831) | about 2 years ago | (#42461205)

Nemo censetur legem ignorare.

Of course, this only really applies to civil law systems.

Re:As an art student... (0)

fredrated (639554) | about 2 years ago | (#42461435)

Nemo is the centaur of legitimate ignorance?

Re:As an art student... (3, Informative)

loufoque (1400831) | about 2 years ago | (#42461553)

It's Latin, from Aristotle, meaning "nobody is thought to be ignorant of the law". (first google result).
It's the principle that all people within a certain jurisdiction are assumed to know everything about that jurisdiction's laws. In particular, you cannot use ignorance as a defense for having breached the law.
Therefore every citizen must take preventive steps to know as much about the law as is reasonably feasible, rather than always depending on a lawyer.

Not knowing this seriously puts in question the quality of your education.

Re:As an art student... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461849)

Not knowing this seriously puts in question the quality of your education.

As important as this particular statement is, knowing or not knowing catch-phrases does not say anything about the quality of ones' education, especially considering Latin is only taught to a very small group of people in the first place.

Re:As an art student... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461975)

The reasonable man version is, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse", which can be put in Latin, but why?

Re:As an art student... (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | about 2 years ago | (#42462017)

If that is Latin, which on the face of it is true, then it most definitely is NOT from Aristotle.

Something should be said about using ignorance to support an argument against using ignorance as a defense. Not quite sure what.

Actually this whole thread makes me think that Green's Law needs to reformulated in a way that would generalize it to cover this kind of thread. For those who do not know or may have forgotten, Green's Law states:

You can lead a horticulture, but you cannot make her think.

Re:As an art student... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42462127)

Not knowing this seriously puts in question the quality of your education.

Or, it could have been a joke, and you could be an uptight jerk...

Re:As an art student... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461683)

Nemo censetur legem ignorare.

The United States has broken this with 'National Security Letters' and FISA. There are laws which you are not allowed to read until you are taken to 'trial' by them. It is INTENDED that you are ignorant of these laws, and if you are not ignorant of these laws, how did you come-by that information before you were charged, hmmmm?

Re:As an art student... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42460965)

As an art student, your opinion is irrelevant. A car is not a work of art. This is not subject to interpretation: what is and what is not a work of art is strictly defined by law. Otherwise, the law would be ripe for abuse, since any product of human manufacture can be argued to include some form of human expression and thus could be interpreted as art. Art has special protection by copyright due to special-purpose laws and it is very important to clearly define what is and what is not covered by them, regardless of the fairness or not of those laws.

"Otherwise, the law would be ripe for abuse" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461081)

you must be new here...

His opinion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461141)

is not what's irrelevant, it's that he/ she is an art student. What would matter is if he were successfully selling art, then he'd be a professional artist and to some extent, an expert in that field. Having said that, it is open to interpretation. The law defines fine art (correct if I'm wrong) if it sells in limited quantities - say 50 I think. Beyond that, it's considered commercial art and different sales tax applies. But there are cases when an artist, who is regarded as such by the fine art community, steals from another genuine artist and copyright law is invoked (see Richard Prince vs. anything really).

Anyways, art is murky and not as well-defined as you think it is. It's as complicated as defining "life" in abortion vs. pro life cases. I think what you're having a hard time distinguishing is the application of copyright law in fine art vs. commercial art.

cheers.

Re:As an art student... (1)

Paul Slocum (598127) | about 2 years ago | (#42461305)

If you're going to compare it to sculpture, then you should consider that artist Jeff Koons was successfully sued [wikipedia.org] for creating a sculpture of a scene depicted in someone else's photograph.

Re:As an art student... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461527)

This is why they hire lawyers instead of art students.

Re:As an art student... (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 2 years ago | (#42461965)

No. To copyright an exact replica would mean no more 3rd party suppliers. I don't see how that benefits society in the least.

The Adevntures of Ferrari Man! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42460883)

And Toyota Boy. He's not as cool, but he's reliable.

Re:The Adevntures of Ferrari Man! (5, Insightful)

TWX (665546) | about 2 years ago | (#42461375)

Automakers do not have to copyright their designs, they trademark aspects of them. They also patent aspects of them, and generally only defend those patents and trademarks when others attempt to build new vehicles of mass production.

This gentleman is reproducing something by modifying an existing car to look like another modified car. DC nor the TV producers built the car from scratch, they modified a design for a concept car from Ford [wikipedia.org] using existing Ford chassis to make their batmobile. Arguably, theirs is a derivative work in of itself, which should significantly reduce their ability to claim harm from others also making derivative works.

Re:The Adevntures of Ferrari Man! (2)

j00r0m4nc3r (959816) | about 2 years ago | (#42461647)

It's just like clothing. You can't copyright a clothing design, but you can copyright the artwork on it. I can make as many replicas of a $1000 Dolce and Gabbana shirt that I want and sell them for $10 as long as I don't brand them with "Dolce and Gabbana", and it's fair game. But I can't make a t-shirt with a Battlestar Galactica logo and sell it. So in this case, I think he should be allowed to make the car, but he can't put a Batman logo on it without a license...

Re:The Adevntures of Ferrari Man! (1)

plover (150551) | about 2 years ago | (#42461871)

How much artwork can he put on it then? Can build a replica and paint it purple? Can he paint it purple and put a yellow oval on the doors? Can he paint it purple with a yellow oval, and put a black baseball bat in the oval? Can he put a not-DC-licensed Batman stylized bat in the oval? Can he sell the car with cans of purple, yellow, and black paint, and say "here you go, one not-Batmobile, and a set of not-official not-Batmobile paints"?

Are the non-structural, non-functional elements artistic? Can he put fins on it, or a blue glowing nuclear powered turbine engine on the back?

There's all kinds of lines that could be crossed here that I think it would take a judge to sort them all out.

Re:The Adevntures of Ferrari Man! (2)

TWX (665546) | about 2 years ago | (#42461901)

I think he should be allowed to make the car, but he can't put a Batman logo on it without a license...

That would depend on where he got the logo from, and if the logo's production was licensed. If he bought a licensed logo from a store and slapped it on then I don't see a violation. It would also depend on if the show has fallen into the public domain. I had heard, for example, that at least the first season Star Trek had fallen into the public domain because its copyright wasn't renewed, but currently I can't find any evidence of that, but if it's true then it would possibly be legal to use elements from Star Trek in other things without royalties.

The Exploding Pinto Man! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42460917)

"The Exploding Pinto Man and His Bubbly Sidekick Pacer"

Worst. Comic. Ever.

Re:The Exploding Pinto Man! (2)

MickyTheIdiot (1032226) | about 2 years ago | (#42460957)

The educational line has a stylized Ralph Nader talking about Covairs.

It could be called "2 Unsafe 2 Speed"

Re:The Exploding Pinto Man! (1)

Bob the Super Hamste (1152367) | about 2 years ago | (#42461115)

Now that I have wiped up the tea. Of all the days to not have mod points.

How can you copyright (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42460933)

Something you can't competitively provide to the public?

Re:How can you copyright (1)

Alain Williams (2972) | about 2 years ago | (#42461311)

In exactly the same way as you seem to be able to patent something that you have not made.

Re:How can you copyright (2)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 2 years ago | (#42461747)

[How can you copright] Something you can't competitively provide to the public?

Let's turn back the clock to the 80's or 90's before the Internet really got big..

The following scenario doesn't apply to the batmobile issue, but it DOES apply to your train of thought which I've heard from others before...

Young Author: This is great, my new concept of a super hero with backstory X, costume Y, and logo Z is a great idea! I've had it since childhood. Let me just get a copyright and stuff. Maybe show off a self-printed Issue #1 at a covention. I could probably find a printer to make some copies, I could probably sell a few dozen copies.

Evil Publisher: Hey Bob, I was at the convent and I saw a possible new idea for a hero we could use. Let's release it.

(A few months later)

Young Author: W T H! That was my idea. It has the same backstory, costume, and flippin' logo! I copyrighted it and everything. You're selling thousands of copies all around the country!

Evil Publisher: How can you copyright something you can't competitively provide to the public.

Young Author: Oh I guess you're right. I should have listened to that Anonymous Coward.

Bent on Ruining.... (2)

Jetra (2622687) | about 2 years ago | (#42460943)

our childhood.

Re:Bent on Ruining.... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#42461259)

if your childhood isn't over, how exactly is your childhood ruined because you can't have everything your greedy little heart desires?

Re:Bent on Ruining.... (1)

thomasw_lrd (1203850) | about 2 years ago | (#42461629)

I think he's trying to say that by suing this guy, he'll never be able to own a 1960 Batmobile. Which is ruining his childhood (but maybe you did undestand that, and I'm not understanding why you're upset).

I want a Batmobile, but I do think maybe it should be be able to be copyrighted. I'm really torn on this one. I don't agree with copyright law, but I think this one may be a good one.

Re:Bent on Ruining.... (1)

Jetra (2622687) | about 2 years ago | (#42461887)

?. I grew up with Batman The Animated Series (1990s, which I believe is far superior to any other), but I'm not wanting the batmobile. What I'm saying is that companies are bent on making sure they own every single piece that belongs to them so they can make sure we pay royalities out the ass.

Trade mark or copyright? (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | about 2 years ago | (#42460945)

Warner attorney J. Andrew Coombs argues in legal papers that the Batmobile incorporates trademarks with distinctive secondary meaning

but

Towle's attorney Larry Zerner, argues that automobiles aren't copyrightable.

Since something need not be capable of protection by copyright to be capable of protection by a trade mark (a single word, for example) and since something need not be a trade mark to be eligible for copyright protection (this eliminate pretty much everything which is protectable by copyright today), Zerner's statement may be true as a matter of law, but it does not address the Warner's claim.

Car copycats (1)

mcleland (620018) | about 2 years ago | (#42460953)

How come we don't see car companies produce knock-offs of each other's products? It happens in software and massive numbers of other consumer products. What prevents Chevy from copying the Ford F-150? Certainly they take each other's ideas, but you don't see wholesale copying.

Re:Car copycats (2)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about 2 years ago | (#42461017)

Actually you do see this. Hyundai was making copies of luxury vehicles for several years (not sure if they still are or if they were successful enough that they were able to stop) - cars that to the casual glance would like BMW, Mercedes, etc.

      Hyundai's tact was, "Hey you don't have to pay for a high-end luxury vehicle to get a high-end luxury vehicle."
As far as the other manufacturers, there's nothing to gain from confusing customers.

Re:Car copycats (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about 2 years ago | (#42461033)

D'oh. Need more coffee.

s/tact/tack

Re:Car copycats (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461271)

Daewoo had some decidedly close looking cars, but then I found out they had bought the older moulds and production lines and rights from GM and a team from GM had been over there to set the production line up as part of it.
GM were happy because Daewoo had the old tech and had already moved onto a newer platform and got some cash out the deal, and daewoo went on to stamp hundreds of thousands of the old design out and sell them rebadged with a slight makeover and a different engine.
The one I know for sure about was the daewoo copy of the Opel/Vauxhall Astra in europe, but I think they had agreements for other GM product line too.
.

Re:Car copycats (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42461529)

Name these cars. I have never seen one and seriously doubt they look that much like a BMW or Mercedes since neither of those look remotely similar.

Re:Car copycats (1)

thePowerOfGrayskull (905905) | about 2 years ago | (#42461801)

Genesis vs S-Class - here's a picture for the visual comparison: http://www.thecarconnection.com/car-compare-results/hyundai_genesis_2010-vs-mercedes-benz_s-class_2010 [thecarconnection.com] . You can also search sonata and cls550.

They have also mimicked BMW, Jaguar. (Obviously in different cars - or I'd assumed it was obvious anyway...) I'm also assuming you don't need me to google every one for you ;)

Re:Car copycats (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 2 years ago | (#42461925)

Genesis coupe and Infiniti G35 coupe are also VERY similar.

Re:Car copycats (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42462281)

So they copied the grills is what this looks like to me.
Angle of the car, wheel arches, are still fairly different.
Not sure I would call that a copycat, I was expecting it to be hard to tell the difference from a casual glance, but I guess it could trip someone up when in motion.

Kinda sleazy, but Buick did that with a car as well. They made it look like BMW grill.

Re:Car copycats (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461025)

check again
http://carscoop.blogspot.com/2008/01/lifan-3-series-chinese-create-5door.html

Re:Car copycats (1)

EETech1 (1179269) | about 2 years ago | (#42461083)

Didn't GM go batshit when the Chineese copied the Hummer?

I seem to recall it making quite a stir.

Cheers!

Re:Car copycats (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about 2 years ago | (#42461153)

That was only because the Chinese version was more reliable!

Re:Car copycats (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461369)

Dear Sir,
"batshit" is copyright DC Comics. Please remove this post post-haste.

Re:Car copycats (1)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#42461371)

because the knock offs are always slightly different

this guy runs a business called gotham garage and advertises his cars as bat 89 and so forth. and even says that he uses molds pulled from the original cars used in the production of the shows/movies.

surprised it took this long to sue him

Toyota's Captain Earth, and their Prius+ (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42460969)

Heh heh heh. Toyota could publish a comic book of "Captain Earth, and the Earthketeers", featuring the 42 MPG EPA, seven seating Prius+, the small, nimble Prius c for small group travel! Watch them battle the Real Estate developer, Loot en Plunder, from his evil Hummer! See them bring the Sonata driving Sludemaster, to court to fess up for his lies!

Tough Call (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 2 years ago | (#42461021)

IANAL, but even fro ma practical standpoint... I see it being fuzzy.

I imagine it falls somewhere between kit-cars and merchandise. Also, I imagine the Batman Logo would hurt it. If it had THAT, then DC would tear them a new one. Without it? Hard to say.

For example, let's say you start selling sculptures of model X-Wings / Millenium Falcons / Enterprises / Battlestars / etc. without first getting permission / approval / licenses. Well, you'd be violating a bunch of copyrights / trademarks / etc. and would be very open to a lawsuit. Lucas and the rest of them could tear you a new one if they wanted to.

Now let's say you copy (EXACTLY) a 2012 Ferrari. I don't mean "it has similar lines as a Ferrari" but you start selling it exactly the same (or as close as possible). Similar specs / HP, same body, the flippin' Ferrari logo. You'd probably also be hit with a lawsuit. Without the logo you'd still have trouble, but the logo would open up a whole new case of issues.

But let's say your car is just really similar... like it has a near-indistinguishable front and rear as another car. For example, around ~2006 some manufacturer (I think Toyota) copied a LOT of the body styling of the Cadillac CTS. The first company could probably go after you if you copied something very original or ground-breaking... but I imagine it would be a toss-up.

And then you have kit-cars, where you can sell kits that let enthusiasts build their own cars: Model Ts, small popular sports cars from the 50s, etc. But I don't know if the sellers have to buy a license / get approval / etc. before selling the kits.

Re:Tough Call (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461109)

Is there a point to your ruminations?

Am I the only one.... (1)

dcherryholmes (1322535) | about 2 years ago | (#42461113)

.... who thought this was going to be about BeOS?

Working on the new Fantastic Four (5, Funny)

paiute (550198) | about 2 years ago | (#42461131)

Cam Corvette, charismatic leader
Johnny Pinto, able to burst into flame
Suzy Smartcar, tiny but strong
and of course, The VW Thing

Re:Working on the new Fantastic Four (1)

Phrogman (80473) | about 2 years ago | (#42461551)

I'll just wipe up this coffee now :P

As an aside, there is a guy who parks in front of my apartment building who drives a VW Thing. One of the more ugly vehicles of course, but definitely distinctive.

Re:Working on the new Fantastic Four (1)

macs4all (973270) | about 2 years ago | (#42462213)

I'll just wipe up this coffee now :P

As an aside, there is a guy who parks in front of my apartment building who drives a VW Thing. One of the more ugly vehicles of course, but definitely distinctive.

It is simply a WWII Nazi Military Jeep. Not really changed at all.

Now, does this count as a "Godwin" post?

Do they really want to open this can of worms? (2)

Stormbringer (3643) | about 2 years ago | (#42461177)

By the same argument, the studios like Warner are liable for every time they depict an existing vehicle. Do they have proof of licensing from the auto makers for showing a VW bug or a Mustang? How about some guy's tricked-out bike? And they've got deeper pockets to hit than some guy in a garage.

Why? (1)

Hentes (2461350) | about 2 years ago | (#42461263)

It's not like Warner is selling their own cars these guys compete with. What's the point of pissing off your fanbase?

Re:Why? (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 2 years ago | (#42461571)

It's not like Warner is selling their own cars these guys compete with. What's the point of pissing off your fanbase?

They have to protect their property somewhat. If the car has the Batman logo, then they might have more of a leg to stand on. DC owns the Batman brand, letting someone (A) profit from it without their cut or consent and (B) potentially DAMAGE (or at the least dilute) the brand would hurt their bottom line.

Let's say they shrug their shoulders and say "have at it" like some fans want. Where does it end? I'm not talking about fan fiction and stuff, but for-profit stuff.

Let's take an EXTREME, let's say they shrug their shoulders completely and let anyone do anything with "Batman" Someone could technically make a cartoon that airs on Showtime or something... where Batman is a racist child abuser or something. Such a thing would hurt the Batman brand. Obviously that's an extreme example but you get the point.

But let's say in THIS example... some guy starts mass producing the Batmobile (logo and all) and there are hundreds of them on the road. Maybe the classic one, maybe the Jim Burton ones, whatever. And lets say either the quality stinks or there are some bad accidents with it or something, like the Toyota accelerator fiasco but worse. DC would start getting a LOT of bad press, even if it was just informal.

Some uninformed parents might say "Oh, I'm not taking my son to see the new Batman movie... not after DC let those incidents happen with their Batmobiles" or whatever.

Re:Why? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42461605)

Toyota accelerator fiasco? Was that not found to be oldsters who can't tell brake from gas?

Bring back 3 pedals, that would sort this out.

Re:Why? (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 2 years ago | (#42461879)

Toyota accelerator fiasco? Was that not found to be oldsters who can't tell brake from gas?

Bring back 3 pedals, that would sort this out.

No, a few years ago Toyota had an actual issue that was perhaps blown out of proportion, but it existed in some rare cars. I forget if it was a software glitch or some bad parts.

Accelerators are electronic / computerized now. It USED to be, you pushed the accelerator, which pulled a cable, which pulled a widget that controls the throttle. Now it's computerized: so the pedals now send a signal to a computer that says "He's pushing it this hard" and the computer says "OK, let's adjust the air/fuel mixture and increase the throttle, so we save some gas"

The issue was, the computer was having issues so it was thinking users were accelerating when they weren't. Sometimes the foot was off the pedal completely and it was still accelerating.

It was in small cases whose instances were probably exaggerated, but it was happening from time to time. But you can see the safety issue... people car would speed up (or at least not slow down) as they approached stop signs, pedestrians, traffic on the highway, etc.

Heck, I had similar issues in my GM car. In my case, the pedal "unit" was faulty. When pressed, it started sending the data that I was flooring it / releasing it / flooring it / releasing it every second so my car was going all over the pace. I had to have it replaced. Fortunately for my case it wasn't as much of a safety issue as the accelerate would be cancelled out by the release.

Re:Why? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42462145)

I have had the old mechanical ones stick. Flooring it was how I got it unstuck. Since I had 3 pedals I could have always held down the clutch. Which should always mean no power gets to the wheels, of course a slushbox can be shifted into neutral as well, but no one seems to know that.

Re:Why? (1)

macs4all (973270) | about 2 years ago | (#42462457)

Toyota accelerator fiasco? Was that not found to be oldsters who can't tell brake from gas?

Bring back 3 pedals, that would sort this out.

Not after Steve Wozniak demonstrated a repeatable sequence of control "gestures" involving, IIRC, the Cruise Control that would always cause it to happen...

Re:Why? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42462471)

I believe that was a different issue than the one spoken about in the stuck accelerator fiasco.

Not a lot of people are using cruise control in town.

Re:Why? (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | about 2 years ago | (#42461997)

Did you ever stop to think that maybe Batman should be in the Public Domain by now, rendering all of this moot?

Re:Why? (1)

kannibal_klown (531544) | about 2 years ago | (#42462121)

Did you ever stop to think that maybe Batman should be in the Public Domain by now, rendering all of this moot?

I'd considered RECENTLY as I was having a debate about the whole "Disney" thing and how they pretty much took control of a lot of old content. My position is more of a personal preference since (A) IANAL and (B) the law is on DC's side about not releasing Batman to Public Domain.

I think I'm OK with a company holding the rights AS LONG AS they are actively developing it. In the case of Batman: there are multiple comics out each month that continue and expand the story. They've branched off with Batgirl, Batwoman, Nightwing, Red Robin, Red Hood, Batman Inc, etc. And film-wise, they're still releasing new stuff. They've done stuff and gone in directions that the 1930's would never dream. Sure, there's a lot of crud in there, but at least in the Batman franchise the comics have more good than bad.

If they were just SITTING on the content, then I'd have a problem with it and want it on public domain. OR if they were just releasing a cruddy sequel every X years just to maintain their license because those license-extensions usually stink (think the Fantastic Four film from the 90s).

But in the case of comics, I'm OK with it. Sure, I'd RATHER the artists the created the characters owned it (in part or in whole) but I'm not against DC keeping their content from Public Domain so long as they continue to develop it.

But if it was something that was dropped entirely and gathering dust, then I think it should probably go to Public Domain after 50 years.

Re:Why? (1)

Bucc5062 (856482) | about 2 years ago | (#42461659)

Because in this new utopian fascist state, meglomanical CEOs don't get a rats ass about fanbase, people, or common sense. They care about power and the ability to project it. They don't even consider the ramifications (mentioned in other posts), but just for what *they* get out of the struggle. Business is a necessary evil, but sadly in the past few decades Evil has been more the modis operendi.

Though not a Marxist myself, I think he was on to something when he said Capitalists will gladly sell the rope that will hang them. Karl had the right thought, wrong group. A capitalist wont sell the rope to hang themselves, they will figure out how to sell rope to executioners to hang others. Greedists, they are so full of themselves they will figure the rope will break or the King will save them from the hangman so will bargain the best rate for the rope.

Be careful what you wish for (5, Insightful)

Andy_R (114137) | about 2 years ago | (#42461289)

If this lawsuit does establish a new intellectual property right, Warner could be in big trouble.

The 1966 Batmobile is a modified Lincoln Futura concept car from 1955. As this is a brand new type of property right, it's unlikely that George Barris who bought the concept car and modified it to make the Batmobile ever bought the 'sculpture' rights to it, so the rights would revert to the 'sculptor' of the original car, the Ford Motor Company. If they win, Warner could not stop clones, as Ford would be the rights holder, not Warner... and Ford would be able to bill Warner for the use of their 'sculpture' in all the toys, films, TV shows that have used it over the years.

Re:Be careful what you wish for (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461455)

And the creators of the Hummer get to sue Warner Brothers' ass into oblivion over the design of the Tumbler!

This is a trademark battle (2)

mbone (558574) | about 2 years ago | (#42461351)

If you read the article, this is basically a trademark battle, with some copyright FUD thrown in for good measure.

Trademark is basically about fraud - would a reasonable person think that they have bought an official Batman car, or just a unofficial replica? So, Warner may or may not have a case, depending on how these are marketed and sold. However, what I think Warner is really trying to do is to spend Mr. Towle under the table, and they are likely to be quite successful in that.

Re:This is a trademark battle (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 2 years ago | (#42461549)

If you read the article, this is basically a trademark battle, with some copyright FUD thrown in for good measure.

Trademark is basically about fraud - would a reasonable person think that they have bought an official Batman car, or just a unofficial replica? So, Warner may or may not have a case, depending on how these are marketed and sold. However, what I think Warner is really trying to do is to spend Mr. Towle under the table, and they are likely to be quite successful in that.

I would hazard to guess that certain items are protected - the distinctive Batman emblems, for example and many be the paint scheme - assuming they were trademarked. An interesting comparison is the Cobra replicas - you can copy the original AC shape but can't use Cobra emblems (unless you buy them from the trademark owner).

Hollywood (1)

gr8_phk (621180) | about 2 years ago | (#42461469)

Ford, Toyota, Ferrari and Honda would start publishing comic books, so that they could protect what, up until now, was unprotectable.

Hollywood will love it when they have to pay a licensing fee for every car in every shot in a movie - retroactively of course.

And then there's this from TFS:

attorney J. Andrew Coombs argues in legal papers that the Batmobile incorporates trademarks with distinctive secondary meaning...

Trademarks have to registered with the PTO or they do not exist - looks to me like he's making this up.

The real reason... (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 2 years ago | (#42461587)

DC Comics currently licenses to Fiberglass Freaks themanufacture and customization of full-size automobiles into the Batmobile Vehicles,featuring the DC Comics Trademarks.

Maybe DC wants to protect a revenue stream from licensing the Batmobile for full sized vehicles?

Paint it white (1)

tekrat (242117) | about 2 years ago | (#42461637)

or put a bumper sticker on it... And then it's your interpretation of a Batmobile, and it's a new work of art, and it's copyrightable by you under fair use laws.

Or, every automaker can sue Warner Brothers every time they use a car in a movie. It works both ways.

Funny story BTW, about Herbie the Love Bug... VW initially didn't *want* Disney to use a beetle in the movie. They thought it was going to hurt sales. Instead, it had the opposite effect. When the "remake" came around with Lindsay Lohan, VW was all for it this time around, even bringing the tricked-out "NASCAR" version to the AutoShow at the Javits Center in NYC, and giving away posters for the movie.

Prop Replicas (1)

JeanCroix (99825) | about 2 years ago | (#42461661)

How has this not come up before, given the decades' worth of fan-made movie and television prop replicas being sold at conventions and websites around the world? I can remember seeing Star Trek props made from the "original molds" on dealer tables twenty-five years ago - has Paramount been going after these folks for copyright/trademark violations all along? Or is this case different because it's a car?

Mustang Eleanor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461699)

Yesterday I was reading up on the Mustang car, and ran across this at wikipedia:

The popularity of the second film revived the popularity of "Eleanor." A number of car shops started to produce "Eleanor" (custom Fastback Mustang)tagged replicas, and Denice again had to resort to legal action to protect the trademark. In 2008, Denice Shakarian Halicki won a case copyright Eleanor Character image against Carroll Shelby, who had been selling "Eleanor" replicas. 2008 Appeal court states that "Eleanor" is copyrighted Character and that includes her image.

from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleanor_%28automobile%29#Legacy

So, would this be a precedent? First its mentioned as a Trademark case(does Warner have that on the batmobile?), and later a Copyright case concerning the image of the car.

Same doesn't apply for Mach 5? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461703)

http://www.gothamgarage.net/mach5.html

"Be forewarned that if you are gullible enough to purchase an illegally molded copy of Mark Towle's Mach 5, you are certain to experience legal entanglement with the Mach 5 franchise and experience the total loss of your investment!"

Re:Same doesn't apply for Mach 5? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42462157)

And it says their Batman Forever car won't be available until licensing is worked out. I don't see how this is any different from the Bat 66.

Die Fledermaus Auto (1)

Sponge Bath (413667) | about 2 years ago | (#42461719)

I'm sure the copyright has expired on that opera.

The Adventures of Boring Man! (2)

Dogtanian (588974) | about 2 years ago | (#42461775)

If they're going to print comic books, they'll need to be *about* the sort of character that'd drive those cars.

The Vauxhall Astra [wikipedia.org] could get Thirtysomething-married-with-two-young-children-in-the-back-seats-Man.
The Ford Transit [wikipedia.org] gets White Van Man [wikipedia.org] , obviously.
With its contrived, overstyled appearance, the Nissan Juke [wikipedia.org] looks like that puppet from the Saw films [wikipedia.org] , though in reality our hero^w villian driving it would be Twenty-or-Thirtysomething-twonk-with-a-moderate-amount-of-disposable-income-to-spend-on-crappy-"lifestyle-oriented"-pretend-4x4-toy-vehicles-demographic-Man (or -Woman).

The possibilities are endless, problem is that 99% of cars will look like they should be driven by Boring-Stuffed-Shirt-Man or Dull-Suburban-Mother-Woman (er, because in reality... they are). ;-)

I was going to make a copy of the Mach 5 but... (1)

zawarski (1381571) | about 2 years ago | (#42461805)

http://www.gothamgarage.net/mach5.html [gothamgarage.net] -"Be forewarned that if you are gullible enough to purchase an illegally molded copy of Mark Towle's Mach 5, you are certain to experience legal entanglement with the Mach 5 franchise and experience the total loss of your investment!"

Patent idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42461829)

What the summary said: publish a comic book to ensure possession of intellectual property rights over automotive concepts.

Who needs step 2 and 3 anyway?

Which one (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 2 years ago | (#42461853)

There have been more Batmobile designs, in the Movies and the comics than there have been versions of the USS Enterprise

I did see the one from the Adam West TV series at ValleyCon a few years ago.

10,000 girl scouts giggling (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | about 2 years ago | (#42461893)

[from The Fine Summary]The implications of a ruling upholding this standard are easy to imagine. Ford, Toyota, Ferrari and Honda would start publishing comic books, so that they could protect what, up until now, was unprotectable.

Warner Bros and DC Comics have little to fear if Ford, Ferrari, Chevrolet, or Hyundai start publishing comic books. But if Honda or Toyota go this route, well, that would be very hard to compete with. No matter how many Captain Vanilla look alikes the USA, Korea, or Europe produce, none of them would stand a chance against the Sailor Moons of the Japanese manga artists.

It would be the Stay Puft Boy against Godzilla in Willy Wonka's factory. It would be a disturbance of the Farce, like tens of thousands of Girl Scouts giggling out loud and then silent. The whole industry would be s'mored.

Holy legal clusterfuck, Batman! (1)

Alien Being (18488) | about 2 years ago | (#42462107)

Will the citizens of Gotham be safe from arch criminals impersonating the caped crusaders?

Will Batman and Robin start driving a Prius?

Will Batgirl finally show us her tits?

Find out tomorrow. Same Bat time. Same Bat channel.

Elinor? (1)

sycodon (149926) | about 2 years ago | (#42462249)

I seem to recall that various companies which customized Mustangs to look like Elinor from the original Gone in Sixty Seconds were successfully sued in the past.

Maybe is was because they actually marketed it as "Elinor", and I think put the name somewhere on the vehicle, that cinched that case. Not sure.

Copyright vs Design Patents. (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about 2 years ago | (#42462405)

Are they asserting copyright? That is very strange. There are things called "design patent". Essentially it patents a "form" of an object. Like a particular floral pattern on a door knob or something. It does not prevent others from making door knobs. Just gives the rights holder the right to prevent others from making an exact replica or something very close. Very heavily used in garment industry, and chinaware cutlery side of things. I am surprised the comics is going after copyright claims.
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