Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Holy Copyright, Batman! DC/Warner Bros. Sues Maker of Knock-Off Batmobiles

The Batmobile*
Mark Towle of Santa Ana, California, thought he had a great idea.  He could use his mechanical talents of his custom paint and body shop to turn otherwise mundane street vehicles into replicas of Batman's famous ride, The Batmobile.

He created Gotham Garage and started to work.  But after producing just three replicas, Towle and his company were slammed with a copyright infringement lawsuit by DC Comics and its parent Warner Brothers.

Towle is fighting back. His position is that under clear copyright law, useful articles such as automobiles do not qualify as "sculptural works" and therefore are not eligible for copyright protection.

DC claims the Batmobile is not merely a functional automobile, but rather is a customized design and an essential element of the Batman intellectual property.

The case is a bit of a throwback to the days of Miami Vice.  In the first two seasons of Miami Vice, vice cop Sonny Crockett (Don Johnson) drove a black Ferrari Daytona.  Only it wasn't a Ferrari at all.  It was a knockoff created from a Corvette at a price of $49,000, far below the six-figure price of the genuine article.

Ferrari sued the conversion company, but offered Miami Vice two 1986 Ferrari Testarosas on condition that the replicas were destroyed.  So in the second episode of Season 3, Sonny's black "Ferrari" was blown up by a stinger missile.  It was replaced by the genuine white Testarosa.

The Batmobile case is pending in Federal District Court in southern California.

*photo credit: <a href="">San Diego Shooter</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

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