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DC Comics Prevails In Batmobile Copyright Dispute 115

Posted by timothy
from the mechanical-royalties dept.
think_nix writes "Wired reports of U.S. District Judge Ronald S. W. Lew siding with DC Comics in the federal copyright court case against Gotham Garage owner Mark Towle. DC accused Towle of selling 'unlicensed replica vehicle modification kits based on vehicle design copyrights from plaintiff's Batman property, including various iterations of the fictional automobile, the Batmobile.' Lew noted that 'DC Comics pleads sufficient facts to support its allegations. Although, generally copyright law does not apply to "useful articles" such as autos.'"
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DC Comics Prevails In Batmobile Copyright Dispute

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  • by jmkaza (173878) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @05:04PM (#38907705)

    I guess I can no longer count on my plan to sell copies of Wonder Woman's invisible jet to make my billions.

  • I just Hollywood looks at Star Trek and the pads they were using , and knock on Apples door for a few billion dollars.

    • by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @05:15PM (#38907861)

      There is a difference between 'a device inspired by, and with similar functionality to' a fictional device, and 'a device who's sole selling point is it's resemblance to a fictional device'. An iPad and a PADD may be conceptually related, but no more than Burger King and McDonalds are conceptually related. (Less, probably.)

    • by alen (225700)

      except that hollywood copied the padd idea from the tablet concept that had been around a lot longer

    • by RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) <taiki@cUMLAUTox.net minus punct> on Thursday February 02, 2012 @05:19PM (#38907919)

      if I had to choose between iOS and LCARS I'd take iOS.

      Ever look at an LCARS interface? jesus, who designed this? Space aliens? Oh wait...

      • by Megane (129182)
        Isn't LCARS where Microsoft got their Metro [google.com] design from?
        • by WillAdams (45638)

          I wish.

          Things which LCARS had which don't seem to be showing up in graphical interfaces:

          - customizable / auto-configuring button / command layouts
          - chording where one can press multiple on-screen buttons at once to activate complex commands quickly
          - easy / automatic sub-division of the screen to allow for multiple applications to be running while preserving state of those already in place and no sense of a need to switch from one to another (no click to focus --- tapping a button on

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 02, 2012 @05:09PM (#38907769)

    Please put that awful website out of its misery. Slashdot it, take an axe to the servers, email how-to documents to its perpetrator ( rhondamazurek@gmail.com ), I don't care! Get it out of my eyes!

    • by twmcneil (942300)
      It's the old GeoCities look, very retro. To go with their nearly 50 year old automobile modification packages.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      View source and check out the keywords. They are amazing:

      Batmobile Replicas,1966 batmobile replica,1989 batmobile replica, 89 batmobile, fiberglass freaks, batmobiles, batman cars, batcar, gotham garage, batmobile replica forum, batman automobiles, batmobile, chicks love the car, 66 Batmobile, 1966 Batmobile, 1989 batmobile, Magichouse, logansport, Indiana, Racop, Sandburg, Barris, batmobile, George, replica, Fiberglass, Freaks, batparts, batman, indiana, parts, bat, futura, lincoln, 1966, mark, builder, kits, butts, buybatparts, beacon, radir, fiberglassfreaks@yahoo.com, www.buybatparts.com

    • by game kid (805301)

      I was about to dismiss that with a "You make a better one then." or even a "As if Web 2.0 is an improvement!?".

      Then I noticed the lack of alt text, but for a site meter image that's tagged with an alt of...Site Meter. Travesty confirmed.

      • by LWATCDR (28044)

        It is pretty bad but are all the sites that use CMSs and all look more or less like WordPress really any better?

    • by Hentes (2461350)

      Now come on, they are car mechanics not webdesigners.

  • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @05:13PM (#38907827)
    DC Comics has withstood the defendant's motion to dismiss. The judge has not sided with them on any merits of their claims; he has merely said they have enough of a legal basis to proceed with their lawsuit. DC has not won yet.
  • Memo to Mark Towle: Na na na na na na na na...
  • About the pending Appeal to this case.

    DC comics has better things to do than sue kit-car makers. Not as if DC is competing in this arena.

    • There is no appeal as the case hasn't been decided. The defendant made a motion to dismiss (which is common) and the judge ruled in against them in that there are enough legal basis in favor of DC for a court to hear the case. In contrast, if this was Righthaven, the judge was have ruled for the defendant in dismissal because Righthaven did not have the legal right to sue in the first place.
  • Not fair (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Droog57 (2516452) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @05:17PM (#38907895) Journal
    I can see this being a problem for a mass-produced replica or knock-off toys, but the kind of buyer for this product does not have any other choice than to get one custom made. If I remember correctly the original was a one off by George Barris, and the Gotham Garage website hails a Munster Mobile, with apparently no issues there. If someone wants to plunk down (presumably) big bucks to fulfill a childhood dream, they should be able to. This is copyright gone too far.
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      A good portion of the revenue of these companies comes from licensing merchandise. Of course they will try to enforce their copyrights. The question here is that if copyright is strong enough to be a basis of a claim on a car design, these stuff are usually protected by design patents.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "If I remember correctly the original was a one off by George Barris"

      Four were built. Three fiberglass copies and one from the prototype Lincoln Futura.
      http://www.1966batmobile.com/replica.htm [1966batmobile.com]

    • The Gotham Garage guys need to sell Ford Futura upgrade kits and accessories. Also, tailfins and noses for your mid-90's Corvette.

      "Any resemblance to DC Comics vehicles is purely coincidental."
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by ScentCone (795499)

      If someone wants to plunk down (presumably) big bucks to fulfill a childhood dream, they should be able to.

      Does their childhood dream actually involve having someone else rip off the artist who created the thing about which they've been dreaming? Do they think that the Batmobile they're lusting for was some sort of natural resource that just sprang into existence? Or does the particular design they have in mind perhaps have, you know, a designer who invested the time in making it dream-worthy in the first place?

      I can see this being a problem for a mass-produced replica or knock-off toys, but the kind of buyer for this product does not have any other choice than to get one custom made.

      So, basically, you've got non-scalable, situational ethics. That's got to be really hard to keep tra

      • by lgw (121541)

        Does their childhood dream actually involve having someone else rip off the artist who created the thing about which they've been dreaming? Do they think that the Batmobile they're lusting for was some sort of natural resource that just sprang into existence? Or does the particular design they have in mind perhaps have, you know, a designer who invested the time in making it dream-worthy in the first place?

        Do you believe a single penny of licensing fees would go to the designer? Because that's pretty much your whole rant.

      • Does their childhood dream actually involve having someone else rip off the artist who created the thing about which they've been dreaming

        George Barris has already been well paid for his original work in designing the original car for a specific purpose. Also, according to your logic, Barris should be continuing to pay Ford/Ghia licensing fees for the rights to continue making money from the Futura's design instead of "ripping off the artist" that created it. How much of the replica merchant's licensi
    • It's not like the company that owns copyright in the Batmobile's appearance is privately held. One can always in theory buy a controlling interest in the company, even if the price is $19 billion (half the market capitalization of Wayne En, um, TWX) and thus more than any individual is willing to pay.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    How will this ruling be applied to Fan made props. There are many how's on replicating Star Trek props (http://www.instructables.com/id/how-to-make-a-wooden-phaser/). Does this ruling now stop me from making them? Selling them at a convention? How much would replica need to differ to bypass this? This really seems ripe for abuse.
     

    • by elrous0 (869638) *

      Just think of the money the studios could make off everyone at ComicCon.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Won't be applied to Fans made stuff if they are made for them own use (i.e. not resale) that's the point of this lawsuit.

    • by Mage66 (732291)

      Paramount served every maker of replica Star Trek Props with Cease and Desist orders in the mid 90's.

      Even Richard Coyle who was negotiating in good faith for a license, and Paramount denied. Richard made many of the props used in the Star Trek movies.

      Today, fans can make their own replicas. There are several companies with licenses to make replica props.

      And there are still several garage kit companies selling kits of various qualities and accuracy that just fly under the radar.

      • by PortHaven (242123)

        How ironic...

        Paramount sued all the related Star Trek material.And then the franchise died.

        This is what executive's don't understand.

        • by Mage66 (732291)

          You're exaggerating. Paramount did "sue" ALL the producers of fan made merchandise

          A "Cease and Desist" letter isn't a lawsuit.

          And Star Trek is far from dead. The sequel to the 2009 movie is currently filming, and several fan based shows are in production.

          Star Trek: Phase II is about to release "The Child." Based on a script written for the aborted second series in 1979. The script was adapted for a TNG episode, but this will be as originally conceived and directed by Jon Povil who wrote it.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          ?????
          Star Trek dead?
          I bet the author of that post lives in the evil bearded universe.
          Star Trek seems alive and well here.

  • If all he got was a lawsuit, count himself lucky...

  • by Anonymous Coward

    From the order, "Defendant's argument, however, ignores the exception to the "useful article" rule, which grants copyright protection to nonfunctional, artistic elements of an automobile design that can be physically or conceptually separated from the automobile."

    If you really think this through, the fender of the car cannot be separated from the car as a stand-alone work -- the same for the hood, the driver's seat, the steering wheel, and so on. The only thing that could really be separated from the car as

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't this mean that all the automobile companies can now sue DC comics for drawing pictures of their cars?

    • by PortHaven (242123)

      And B.C. comics can sue the auto-makers for use of the invention of the wheel.

      IP leads to perpetual lawsuits.

  • by kawabago (551139) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @05:49PM (#38908357)
    You can't create a graphic novel with the same drawings of the same vehicle, that would be copyright infringement. Copyright does not extend to real world articles, that would mean copyrights have become patents, which protect ideas. Making a real world replica of a graphic novel image does not affect income from the graphic novel in any way except to increase it's visibility and thus it's value. Ideas were specifically not protected by copyright so people could use the ideas in exactly this way to create more art and more wealth for everyone.
    • If I had moderator points, I'd mod you up. This is definitely a transformative use [wikipedia.org] of the copyrighted material, and thus under Fair Use.

    • Copyright does not extend to real world articles, that would mean copyrights have become patents, which protect ideas.

      Before you rant - you really should read up on patents - try this link [wikipedia.org].

  • Every time I wanted to go to the 7-11 it would be 5 minutes of...

    Atomic batteries to power.
    - Check
    Turbines to speed.
    - Check

    • by Grygus (1143095)

      If you can't take the Rolls or send your manservant then you're not really committed to the idea.

  • by Bucky24 (1943328) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @06:18PM (#38908715)
    "Although, generally copyright law does not apply to "useful articles" such as autos."

    So we can download a car, if we really want to.
  • by PhinMak (630548) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @06:26PM (#38908817) Homepage Journal

    Factory Five [factoryfive.com] makes Shelby Cobra replicas. Carroll Shelby sued to get them to stop in 2000. He lost. He tried again recently for the coupe version. Lost again, with predjudice. Only major change I'm aware of as a consumer is that FactoryFive can't use the term "Cobra" to describe their product. Here's their celebratory press release. [factoryfive.com]

    Seems like Gothem Garage should review this case and maybe change their advertising.

  • DC Comics licensed one guy named Mark Racop to build these cars.

    Mark Towle however, made the prototype for the licensed Speed Racer Mach V that was sold some time back (based on a Corvette chassis.)

    Mark Towle does great work, his cars are really top notch!

    But, unfortunately DC Comics believes there's only room for one licensee for Batmobiles in the market.

    Making replica Futuras would be a great idea. But, that would be a very tiny market, even compared with Batmobiles.

    Towle does good work, many famous peopl

  • You know, I don't see DC Comics offering a life-size Batmobile replica.... yet. If they had plans to, this would be a wise exercise of their copyright.
    Hope springs eternal.
    However, this lawsuit seems to be the result of "intellectual property holders" being goons.
  • Batrodz llc. now has confirmation that we are US Patent pending on our hand sculpted '66 Gotham Roadster design. The hardest part is getting the application accepted. We have crossed that bridge, and our patent is pending approval. Thanks to good friends with powerful lawyers, They got my application, declaration, design illustrations, and filing fees accepted by the us patent & trademark office. We were also able to get a unique design trademark classification code 12 (vehicles) that certificate has be
    • This is laughable. Getting a patent application accepted is no great achievement. Package up the data an figures onto properly sized pages, make sure the correct sections are present and it's done. Unless it's a provisional application. Then you just fill in a cover sheet and submit whatever it is you have and then things a re magically patent pending. Or maybe it's a design patent. Huge value there.
  • by thegarbz (1787294) on Thursday February 02, 2012 @07:39PM (#38909825)

    This is where the whole idea of copyright goes to shit. I'd be totally behind the content owner if they were in direct competition with the garage, i.e. DC Comics also sold car modification kits.

    I can see how piracy could lead to lost sales.
    I can see how creating duplicate products can lead to lost sales.

    What I can also see is the net end result here won't bring in any money for DC Comics, doesn't affect sales, and removes a product people were buying without any alternatives.

    • by tehcyder (746570)

      I can see how piracy could lead to lost sales.

      I can see how creating duplicate products can lead to lost sales.

      You're not allowed to say things like that here, everyone will call you a shill for the MAFIA or something.

  • What a load of crap. It's not as though the sales of this Batmobile are cutting into the profits of DC Comics Batmobile sales. If anything, it helps spur interest in the franchise to see one of these tooling down the street. This just makes me hate DC.

    • by Mage66 (732291)

      Since there IS a licensed Batmobile maker, your post is wrong.

      http://www.fiberglassfreaks.com/ [fiberglassfreaks.com]

      There is a limited market for Batmobile replicas. And every car Towle sells means one less sale by the licensee.

      So yes, DC is being damaged. They lose the per-car licensing fee from each car sold by a non-licensee.

      • by tehcyder (746570)
        Yeah, but copyright violation's not like stealing a car.
        • by Mage66 (732291)

          To DC, it's stealing money. From them.

          If you've never authored a work and had it pirated (I have and bought a copy of my work on eBay, expecting it to be a genuine copy and received a Xeroxed manual and a copied disk.), you don't know what it's like.

          DC is within it's rights to enforce their copyright on the car. They have to, because after decades of wrangling, they got all the ownership issues sorted out and have been releasing toy cars and models.

          In order to have a license to sell to toy and model compani

  • Over his "Batmobile" Cadillac?
  • If Towle was making replicas of the Batmobile from the original TV series, I'd think that George Barris and/or series producers Greenway Productions / Twentieth-Century Fox Television (and maybe Ford Motor Company) would have a greater claim than DC comics, who only started using the Barris design in the comic books after the TV series started.

    Now if this is all about the word "Batmobile", then DC has "prior art"

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