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Groucho Marx on Copyright

Groucho Marx gets sued for having the audacity to make a film about Casablanca. Ok, it may have been overreaching even back then, but still it is indicative:

I just don’t understand your attitude. Even if you plan on re-releasing your picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don’t know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.

You claim you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without your permission. What about “Warner Brothers”? Do you own that, too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were. We were touring the sticks as The Marx Brothers when Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor’s eye, and even before us there had been other brothers — the Smith Brothers; the Brothers Karamazov; Dan Brothers, an outfielder with Detroit; and “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?” (This was originally “Brothers, Can You Spare a Dime?” but this was spreading a dime pretty thin, so they threw out one brother, gave all the money to the other one and whittled it down to, “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?”)

Actually, acccording to William Patry, the Marx Brothers won some and lost some cases.

What has changed these days with regard to copyright? it’s significantly cheaper for attorneys to send boilerplate/cut-and-paste cease-and-desist letters. If the infringing site in question is a website, the law firm need only use google to dig up potential people to sue. For content creators, the cost of delivering a response can mean consulting an attorney and drafting a response.

I don’t want to whine too much. If the law firm has to file suit, that means more legal bills, but it also reduces the chance that both sides can arrive at an amicable settlement.

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