Super Hero Squad Rumorbuster

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

External Rumorbusting

The status of the 60's Batman TV series are famously rumor riddled. Lying in the Gutters is famously rumor riddled. Put the two together and you get... an editorial at TV Shows On DVD.

I'm 67% sure Rich will post a response on LITG about some of the statements made, but a few things stood out and I figured sine there haven't been any good Super Hero Squad rumors lately (although I'm positive another crop of "Is the line doomed? Winter Soldier still isn't out, Sentry still isn't out, Ultimate Hulk isn't out, Collector's Pack 2 still isn't out!" rumors to start any day now) I'd just sort out a few misconclusions from the TV Shows on DVD site (which I actually like, and if they ever read this, hopefully they'll take this as constructive as it's intended to be.

1) It's not a CBR article. It's an edition of LITG. A difference, though subtle, is that most in the comics world know not to blame CBR if Rich is wrong. It's tantamount to citing something from Steven King's column in Entertainment Weekly as "Entertainment Weekly said a lot of books nowdays are stoopid". LITG is generally treated as a wholly separate beast and it's probably better that way.

2) Who owns what...

"Let's clear that up, though, about whom under the Time Life conglomerate umbrella owns the character of "Batman" (and related characters and trademarks). We're told, time and again by people at the company, that it's DC Comics, and not any other division of Time Life! The folks at Warner Bros. Pictures does not own Batman, nor does Warner Home Video (as we relayed at the bottom of our recent report of what WHV execs said on the subject at a live online chat held a week ago at the Home Theater Forum). And these "sister" companies to DC Comics have exactly as much right to tell DC what to do, as you and I have to tell our own siblings what to do (i.e., none). And the parent company apparently has very little interest in stepping in and telling these individual divisions how to run their day-to-day operations."

Right... but what Rich is suggesting is that Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc., which does own DC Comics and is, in turn, owned by Time Warner, via their ownership of DC. While WB Pictures and WHV are sisters to DC, it's not because they're all owned by Time Warner, it's because they're all owned by Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc. What Rich is suggesting is that Warner Brother Entertainment, because DC is it's subsidiary, is "A Warner Bros. Entertainment Company." (as they note at the bottom of their website) owns what DC owns. An imperfect analogy would be the court system. At any given appellate level, no court is really able to inflict law upon the next... that would DC and WB Pictures for instance. They both, however, are bound by the decisions of the court above them. This would be Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc. The subsidiaries report not to each other, but to the same boss.

Rich doesn't suggest any co-subsidiary owns any rights over any other, but rather that the company that owns the company that owns the rights, owns the rights by owning the rights owners.

How much day to day control WB Entertainment Inc. exerts is also subject to rumor... looking into the rumors regarding the "Death of Batman" is a good cross-section of the rumors surrounding WB control over DC. However, the fact remains, they own the rights owners.

Suggesting that the parent company has "little interest" in telling the divisions how to run the day to day operations is just conjecture, and in this case, off point. Just because Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc. can't force a company it owns and a company it does not own to come to an agreement regarding rights issues, does not mean that Warner Brothers Entertainment Inc. doesn't have some say in what goes on. TV Shows on DVD may have its sources saying there's no interest in telling the divisions what to do, but LITG has its sources saying the opposite. Truth? Probably in the middle.

Anyway, the rest of the TV On DVD article is a list of parties that may or may not have some possible claim to a possible slice of the pie.

For instance, on costumes: "In fact, we have heard it said that some of those designs were copyrighted (though we've never been clear on the truth of that)."

On the Batmobile: "It's rumored that the unique Batmobile design warrants royalties or residuals."

On props: "It's rumored that the unique Batmobile design warrants royalties or residuals. Other props, both large (Bat-Boat, Bat-Cycle, Bat-Copter) and small (utility belt gadgets, designs of something like a batarang or bat-phone, villain props, maybe even the Shakespeare-switch to the Batcave) could all possibly be unique enough to the show to require some sort of addition [sic] license for a DVD release."

On an old lawsuit: "While we've heard that this particular lawsuit may be over (we're not sure), all of these issues would have to be taken care of prior to a DVD release."

The optimist in me thinks that most of these issues would be easily remedied once the owners of the footage and the owners of the characters get together. If, and this is a big if, the owners of certain possible claims (props, costumes) have legitimate claims, then the fact that they haven't come forward in the past 4 decades to make their rights, or at least their claims, known (taking them from possible rights owners to known parties) may extinguish some of these potential claims, and those claims that survive... well... honestly now, how many pennies per unit could it really take to pay off a potential prop designer currently getting nothing?

So there you go, my take on the rumor busting of others.

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