4 Weird Pop Culture Lawsuits That Are Straight Out Of Movies
We like to think that our various forms of artistic escape aren't created by faceless corporate machines for the purpose of simply making money, but sometimes that's the unfortunate reality. And in pursuit of giant sacks filled with green bills, pop culture ends up also seeing its fair share of giant lawsuits filled with brown turds. For example ...
Marvel Denied Its Own Canon For A Tax Break
The X-Men are humans. There's no debate about this. They're not aliens, monsters, or talking chupacabras. They're humans with a special genetic trait, like the cherry Coke of people. Only an absolutely clueless geek poser would argue otherwise. Like, um ... Marvel?
In 1993, international trade lawyers Sherry Singer and Indie Singh -- both employed by Marvel -- discovered a bizarre mutation in how federal import tax tariffs are applied. If a company wants to import "dolls" that represent humans, they have to pay a tax of 12%. If that company imports "toys" that represent nonhumans, however, they only have to pay a 6.8% tax. For an entity like Marvel, which licenses scads of action figures, that works out to a massive potential savings. Thus, they petitioned the government to reclassify all of their imported wares as nonhuman toys.
The ensuing legal battle went on for over half a decade, and saw Marvel and the U.S. government go through each character in the company's canon -- from Spider-Man to the Fantastic Four to, yes, the X-Men -- and write real legal briefs about their humanity (or lack thereof).
The figure of 'Kingpin' resembles a man in a suit carrying a staff. Nothing in the storyline indicates that Kingpin possesses superhuman powers. Yet, Kingpin is known to have exceedingly great strength (however 'naturally' achieved) and the figure itself has a large and stout body with a disproportionately small head and disproportionately large hands. Even though 'dolls' can be caricatures of human beings, the court is of the opinion that the freakishness of the figure's appearance coupled with the fabled 'Spider-Man' storyline to which it belongs does not warrant a finding that the figure represents a human being.
It took until 2003 for a judge to declare Marvel as the "winner." It wasn't a decision she made lightly. When describing how she reached her ruling, she explained that she based her verdict not just on the masses of legal papers that both sides had provided, but also a litany of action figures -- as well as close examinations under the clothing of said figures. No, really. That's not a joke.
It was a Pyrrhic victory for Marvel, though. When news reached fans that the X-Men had been stripped off their humanity (for tax reasons), they responded with as much understanding and empathy as you'd expect from scorned nerds. As the editor of one popular fansite beautifully articulated: "This is unthinkable. Marvel's super heroes are supposed to be as human as you or I. They live in New York. They have families and go to work. And now they're no longer human?" Marvel wound up getting so much heat, in fact, that they were soon forced to issue a statement saying that of course everyone's favorite superheroes are still human -- an about-face that was visible from Asteroid M.
Netflix And Sabrina Were Dragged To Hell By The Satanic Temple
When The Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina first hit Netflix in 2018, it was praised for its writing, characterization, and design. Despite being the obvious target market for this show, however, the Satanic Temple wasn't onboard. Instead they filed a $150 million lawsuit against Netflix and Warner Bros. for stealing their copyrighted design of Baphomet.
That might seem like a high price tag for what ultimately amounts to someone on the production staff copying an evil garden gnome, but the Temple justified the amount by pointing out that the show used the statue in association with the bad guys, and therefore implicitly made an association between the evil magical skulduggery of Sabrina and the real organization that uses that statue as its mascot.
The lawsuit was eventually settled, and although the terms are confidential, it's a fair bet that the Temple got a sizable 666-figure sum (*ba-dum TISH*).
Iron Maiden Doesn't Understand Parody
Living the dream of cranky 60-year-olds everywhere, metal band Iron Maiden filed a $2 million suit against a video game developer. The band, currently most famous for Hot Topic T-shirts, alleged that that the title of an upcoming game was an "incredibly blatant" infringement on their intellectual property. The title in question? Ion Maiden, a retro-style game about a bomb disposal expert tasked with stopping the machinations of an evil transhumanist cult leader and his army of cybernetically enhanced soldiers.
Iron Maiden are also arguing that Ion Maiden is similar to Legacy Of The Beast, a game that Maiden released in 2016. We've provided screencaps below, and invite you to judge this claim for yourselves.
As further proof that this is a serious problem for the band, they provided a list of instances where fans have mistaken Ion Maiden for an official band tie-in, alongside other (lesser) complaints about how fans:
-- on an Ion Maiden forum thread thinking that the thread was related to Iron Maiden.
-- an article about the Ion Maiden video game waiting for an explained connection to Iron Maiden.
-- genuine excitement for an Iron Maiden video game.
-- that 'all that's missing is an ... Iron Maiden soundtrack' and that the Iron Maiden song 'Can I Play with Madness' would fit right in.
We've written a lot about bold(ly dumb) legal strategies over the years, but we've got to hand it to Maiden on this one. Claiming that a pun is causing irreparable damage to your brand? That's bold. Claiming that your case has merit because your fans can't read? That's a galaxy-brain-level maneuver they'll be teaching for years at shady lawyer schools, seeing as how it worked. The developer caved and renamed the game Ion Fury, while the band presumably celebrated with a Metamucil toast at their early bird dinner.
A Court Ruled That The Shape Of Water Has Too Much Bestiality To Have Been Stolen
Guillermo del Toro's The Shape of Water so successfully made us question notions of love, communication, and every school trip to the aquarium that it won the Academy Award for Best Picture. With this acclaim, however, came two accusations that del Toro had plagiarized the screenplay.
The first wound up being dropped after the accusers chatted with the man and came away convinced that he didn't have the foggiest clue who they were. The second accusation, which concerned a play titled Let Me Hear You Whisper, wasn't going away quite so easily. Especially considering how the play's plot shares a lot of similarities with The Shape Of Water -- namely it being about an introverted woman who falls in love with a sea creature (in this case a dolphin) who is the subject of some bizarre government experiments.
Del Toro denied that he'd ripped off Let Me Hear You Whisper, and the case went to trial ... where it was dismissed almost immediately on the grounds that A) a woman falling in love with a nonhuman creature is an entire genre of fiction, and more importantly B) the lead character in Let Me Hear You Whisper doesn't have sex with the dolphin.
Now if you'll excuse us, we have to go throw our sexy Flipper remake script in the trash before we get sued.
For more, check out 4 Famous Musicians (Who Stole Their Biggest Hits):
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