Batmobile fight could land before U.S. Supreme Court

| Feb 2, 2016 | Copyright Law

A California mechanic has petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review his copyright dispute with DC Comics, which is owned by Warner Bros., over his construction and sale of Batmobile replicas. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled against him in September 2015.

The mechanic makes and sells replicas of the Batmobiles used in the 1960s “Batman” TV show and the 1989 film. He argues that the cars are essentially just functioning automobiles and that the U.S. Copyright Office has clearly indicated that cars cannot be copyrighted. He states that the 9th Circuit has arbitrarily created an exception to this rule by claiming the Batmobile and other notable Hollywood vehicles, such as one known as Eleanor in the film “Gone in 60 Seconds,” are “sufficiently delineated” to be considered film or TV characters.

The mechanic’s petition counters that there have been more than 100 Batmobile designs over the decades, which make it impossible to claim the vehicle has the traits needed to be a character. Interestingly, he claims that if cars and trucks can be characters, any automaker could keep its patented works from falling into public domain by simply issuing a comic book with the vehicle as a character. It should be noted that the chances of this case landed before the Supreme Court are slim, as the high court agrees to hear only a handful of the thousands of petitions it receives each year.

Owners of creative works deserve to have their copyrights protected from all forms of infringement. Creators of software, music, written works, performance art or artwork may benefit by consulting with an attorney about the best ways to shield their work from unauthorized use.

Source: Hollywood Reporter, “Supreme Court Asked to Review Batmobile Copyright Dispute,” Eriq Gardner, Jan. 22, 2016

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