5 Famous Works That Were Just Half-Assed Copyright Abuses

When faced with a terrible movie, song, or book, try to take some consolation from the fact that nobody sets out to make something god-awful. You can sleep at night knowing that, at the very least, Batman & Robin had good intentions. But that's not true of every property: Sometimes suck is a byproduct of honest effort gone bad, and sometimes suck is a direct result of cynical copyright shenanigans. Consider ...

#5. The Unused Star Trek Lyrics Were Created to Screw the Composer

CBS Television Distribution

Star Trek's flighty, loopy theme song is one of the most memorable in TV history. Too bad it only came about as a means for show creator Gene Roddenberry to screw the composer out of money.

Larry D. Moore
To boldly go where many a dickbag producer has gone before.

Composer Alexander Courage (who is almost certainly the secret identity of Captain Bravery) wrote and conducted the theme song himself, going so far as to perform the Enterprise's "whooshing" sound with his mouth to save Roddenberry money. Courage was a busy guy (his movie credits as a composer range from My Fair Lady to Jurassic Park), but he agreed to work on this then-obscure show about space malarkey and what have you on the understanding that he would get royalties every time an episode aired using the song. Obviously, thanks to the many spinoffs and feature films, Courage is now neck deep in cash and green-skinned strippers of the gender of his fancy.

CBS Television Distribution
"Hey, can I dye those things when you're done? I've got ideas ..."

Or he would be, if there wasn't a small note in one of the contracts he signed stating that if Gene Roddenberry ever added lyrics to the song, they'd have to split the royalties. Good thing there are no lyrics, then! That would not only shaft a talented composer, but utterly ruin that classic instrumental theme. Ah, but here's the rub: Nobody said the lyrics had to be used. Roddenberry exploited the loophole and wrote these bullshit lyrics anyway, just to snatch away half of Courage's royalties.

Beyond the rim of the star-light
My love is wand'ring in star-flight
I know he'll find in star-clustered reaches
Love, strange love a star woman teaches
I know his journey ends never
His star trek will go on forever
But tell him while he wanders his starry sea
Remember, remember me

CBS Television Distribution
Roddenberry would later steal half of Jonathan Frakes' paychecks before he noticed the "Riker beard" clause.

According to Courage, Roddenberry tried to excuse himself, saying he had to make money from the show somehow. Clearly, that profit could come only from pilfering theme-song royalties via junior high school-caliber cosmic poetry. It's not like this space-exploring nonsense would ever take off and drown the world in spinoffs and action figures.

#4. Hellraiser 9 Was Made in Two Weeks So the Studio Could Keep the Rights

Dimension Films

Hellraiser: Revelations is a remarkably shitty horror flick, even considering that it's the ninth installment in the series -- well past the obligatory "Set it in space" and "What if he's a good guy this time?" plot twists. The movie is from 2011, yet somehow managed to have shoddier costumes and effects than the 1987 original. The whole thing looks like it was made in two weeks with a script the makeup guy wrote on the budget of a single episode of Jersey Shore.

Which makes sense, because that's exactly what happened.

Dimension Films
Not a shitty deviantART cosplay photo.

In 2010, faced with the terrifying prospect of losing the rights to make the inevitably disappointing Hellraiser remake, the Weinstein Company rounded up a small crew of filmmakers, gave them $300,000, and told them to produce a sequel in about two weeks. They approached the original actor for Pinhead a month before the shoot, but after reading the script (which, seriously, was written by the makeup artist for the other films), he said no -- again, this was the guy who once read a script about Pinhead in space and said "Sign me up!" but everyone has a limit.


Just to be completely clear, this he was OK with.

As seen in the hilariously bad trailer, the movie has elements of the "found footage" genre, which we suspect is less for artistic reasons and more because somebody hawked the camera for sandwich money. Hellraiser: Revelations was screened at exactly one theater in Los Angeles, for free, before jumping to DVD. So what does Pinhead's creator, Clive Barker, make out of all this? We're not sure; it's not too clear from this tweet:

twitter.com/RealCliveBarker
They had to rush to add "From the butt-hole of Clive Barker" to all the posters.

#3. Bob Dylan Released a Limited-Edition Album Just to Exploit a Loophole

Christopher Polk/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Bob Dylan has sold millions of albums around the world, and yet one of his albums only managed to move 100 copies. That's probably because only 100 exist. Why such a limited run, when even his half-assed Christmas album sold tens of thousands of copies? Let's look at the lavish cover art and see if it provides any clues:

Sony
Vol. II comes in used Taco Bell wrappers.

According to the track listing, half the album is pure repetition, including three versions of the transcendental "Milk Cow Blues" and seven consecutive repeats of "Mixed Up Confusion" (we're pretty sure even the most die-hard Dylan fan could have lived with just the one). There are no liner notes or anything, just a brown piece of paper and a list of songs.

As the title suggests, The Copyright Extension Collection exists solely to exploit a loophole in European copyright law, proving that after all these years, Bob Dylan is still an outlaw (of intellectual property governance). European IP laws extended copyright from 50 to 70 years, but only for songs that have seen release, meaning that a bunch of Dylan's outtakes, live versions, and other such "bonus material" fodder were about to become free for everyone, and he couldn't have that.

F. Antolin Hernandez
"In my case, make money."

To prevent this, Sony distributed 100 CD box sets containing nine hours' worth of stuff Dylan recorded between 1962 and 1963 that they never released because they didn't think they could make money off of it (but didn't want fans to actually have for free in case they might pay money for it). The recordings ranged from alternate versions of well-known songs to a bunch of rejects Dylan recorded at a friend's house. They gave so few shits about the songs that you can actually hear a phone ringing in the background while they were being recorded -- but God forbid they enter public domain. Can you imagine what would happen if people could just get that shit for free?

The album was massively pirated on the Internet within days.

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