MacStupid: MacGyver and MacGruber Squabble Over Competing New Movies
THR, Esq., The Hollywood Reporter's entertainment law blog, reports that a fight has broken out between the creator of the "MacGyver" television series and the producers of "MacGruber," a parody film set to hit theaters in April.
Lee Zlotoff, who created the "MacGyver" series -- which ended in 1992 -- has apparently picked this moment (nearly two decades after the show went off the air) to exercise his rights to make a movie based on the show, and New Line Cinema is said to be developing a "MacGyver" movie. The "MacGruber" film, based on the "Saturday Night Live" segments featuring cast members Will Forte and Kristen Wiig, is set to be produced by Relativity Media and distributed by Universal. Zlotoff's lawyers say "MacGruber" infringes their client's rights, and that a copyright or trademark lawsuit might be necessary.
THR's Matthew Belloni writes that the brewing case presents a potentially interesting twist on typical parody situations because the two movies are being developed simultaneously, and the parody will hit theaters before the original. This could impact the market for a film based on the original, Belloni notes. Alonzo Wickers, a First Amendment attorney with Davis Wright Tremaine in Los Angeles, is quoted as saying that "There's a broad right to parody, and in this instance it's clearly parody. I don’t think a viewer will believe the 'MacGyver' folks authorized this."
Another key question is whether the "MacGruber" parody makes a "fair use" of the "MacGyver" rights, which will require a determination as to "whether the potentially infringing work hurts the market for the original."
To save the two sides any more fighting in this matter, here is (ahem) Judge Carton's armchair ruling:
Nobody cared about MacGyver for almost two decades after the show went off the air. People now care about it microscopically more because the MacGruber spoofs on SNL have rekindled some memories of the show. However, even though those spoofs are somewhat funny once a week for about 30 seconds, an entire film based on that premise is not going to fly.
I hereby rule that because nobody will want to see either movie, there is no market to be hurt, and the damages are zero. Both sides shall move on to more productive pursuits.
It is so ordered.
Posted by Bruce Carton on February 3, 2010 at 02:21 PM | Permalink
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