Holy Frivolous Lawsuits, Batman! Dept.
My pal Zack Wallenfang recently sent me this link from Variety online. I thought it must be a prank… looks like something from “The Onion”:
From Variety Online:
Mayor of Batman sues WB, Nolan
Southeastern city in Turkey fights for name
By ALI JAAFAR
Batman has a new adversary: Batman.
The mayor of an oil-producing city in southeastern Turkey, which has the same name as the Caped Crusader, is suing helmer Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. for royalties from mega-grosser “The Dark Knight.”
Huseyin Kalkan, the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party mayor of Batman, has accused “The Dark Knight” producers of using the city’s name without permission.
“There is only one Batman in the world,” Kalkan said. “The American producers used the name of our city without informing us.”
No one from the town of Batman has explained why it took so many years to take legal action. Batman first appeared as a comicbook character in 1939 and the “Batman” TV series started in 1966. Tim Burton ‘s first bigscreen rendition for Warner Bros. came out in 1989. Undoubtedly the fact that “Dark Knight” is about to pass the $1 billion mark at the B.O. played a part in stirring the ire of the Turkish hamlet.
The mayor is prepping a series of charges against Nolan and Warner Bros., which owns the right to the Batman character, including placing the blame for a number of unsolved murders and a high female suicide rate on the psychological impact that the film’s success has had on the city’s inhabitants.
Former natives of Batman are also said to have encountered obstacles when attempting to register their businesses abroad.
The mayor is working on gathering evidence he claims will show that the city of Batman predates the 1939 debut of Bob Kane‘s superhero in DC Comics.
“We are only aware of this claim via press reports and have not seen any actual legal action,” a Warner Bros. rep said in a statement.
While the town of Batman has suddenly shown great interest in the property, there’s no evidence that the citizenry has ever shown much loyalty to the Caped Crusader — not even on Halloween.
I am pretty sure the lawsuit has no chance of succeeding. Batman has been around as a comic book character since 1939 and even if this hamlet was so named before that, they have had almost 80 years to file a suit for infringing on their rights to the name. I am not sure names of cities have any copyrights to begin with. Part of successfully defending a copyright is to demonstrate a history of defending that copyright.
Back in 1965 Helen Pratt Stuff filed a copyright infringement claim against MAD, claiming her late husband owned the copyrights to the image of Alfred E. Neuman MAD had adopted as their idiotic mascot. Harry Stuff (with a name like that he should have been in adult films) had filed a copyright for “The Original Optimist” in 1914, and his widow renewed that copyright in 1941. She had successfully sued 6 different users of the image prior to 1948 for a total of $2850 in damages. Eventually her case was heard by the Federal Appellate Court in New York as Helen Pratt Stuff, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. E.C. Publications, Inc., William M. Gaines, Independent News Co., Crownpublishers, Inc., Ballantine Books, Inc., Defendants-Appellees., 342 F.2d 143 (2nd Cir. 1965). The lawsuit was dismissed without merit because MAD‘s lawyers proved that Stuff had allowed multiple parties to circulate the image without acknowledging the copyright, and had been “most derelict in preventing others from infringing his copyright”. The courts look upon that as abandoning the copyright.
I would imagine the mayor of “Batman” will have a hard time explaining why he waited until a movie with the Batman character in it grossed a billion dollars before defending whatever rights he thinks he or the city has over the name when it’s been in comic books, ardio, TV and films for 80 years.
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