Screwed by the Lawyers

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Copyright and Trademark law have gotten in the way of or forced cancellation for many works. No matter how promising, popular or profitable a show is, it's still apt to get canceled if it would be illegal to keep broadcasting. This can be prone to What an Idiot! moments on the part of the owner of the intellectual property in question, since if it's that profitable, it makes sense to license the work rather than shut it down, unless of course the artist is Doing It for the Art.

Fans may have to Keep Circulating the Tapes if legal troubles also forbid a home release.

It might be important to note that in some of these cases (particularly ones where big corporation X is suing over similarities in name or style), the company is doing it because they are compelled to—United States trademark law generally demands that anything that even hints at IP infringement has to be defended against by the holder. If they knowingly decline to fight an infringement, a court later on could rule in a IP case that they willingly abandoned the trademark. This has happened with Aspirin (once a Bayer trademark[1]), Cellophane, and other "genericized" trademarks. It's also why most productions bend over backwards to make sure that Real Life product names are not mentioned at all (unless as Product Placement), and certainly never as generics.

Wikipedia refers to this as the tragedy of the anticommons, where the existence of competing rights holders—not just in copyright, but also in patent law, land ownership, leasing rights and other areas—frustrates achieving a socially desirable outcome.

Related to Screwed by the Network.

Examples of Screwed by the Lawyers include:

Anime and Manga

  • The spectacular legal pileup on both sides of the Pacific Ocean between multiple rightsholders in the Super Dimension Fortress Macross franchise has ensured that precious little of the franchise can ever be released in the United States:
    • Bandai was going to release the video game Macross VFX II in the US—even released a demo disc with one of the major game magazines. Harmony Gold forced them to stop.
    • Macross 7, Macross Zero and Macross Frontier will most likely not be released, because of bad blood between Harmony Gold and Big West making such a release impossible. In Macross 7's case, another obstacle is the music licensing, which is a tangled weave.
    • Numerous attempts to bring out the widely praised Yamato's Macross transformable toys have met with C&D letters. Yamato even tried to release the toys with all Macross indicia removed, under the name of "Sunwards". It failed.
    • The only reason, apparently, that Macross Plus and Macross II were released and still enjoy widespread release in the US is that they came out at a time in which HG was "not minding the store", according to rumors that they were weakened after a head-hunting raid by Haim Saban. And that the Japanese side of the pileup was actually listening to the fans and the rest of the industry.
    • It's still a minor miracle that the original series attained a US release, first through AnimEigo and then through ADV.
    • The big one, though, is Macross: Do You Remember Love. This is considered one of the holy grails of old-school anime fandom. However, numerous companies—the usual names in the conflict, such as Big West, Studio Nue, Tatsunoko Production and Harmony Gold, as well as other companies—Shogakukan, Japan Victor Musical Industries, and even Godzilla studio Toho are all squabbling, making a veritable legal Gambit Pileup, one so intractable that some names in the anime industry think we'll see a cure for cancer and world peace before DYRL is legally released again outside Japan.
      • Unlike 7, Zero, and Frontier, though, DYRL was released on VHS in the US and the UK during the mid-1990s. The US got a heavily-cut version titled Clash of the Bionoids (released by Celebrity Home Entertainment), and also a version with fewer cuts or no cuts titled Superdimensional Fortress Macross (released by Best Film and Video), both of which had an English dub commissioned by Toho, which was similar to the dubs for Toho's Godzilla movies. In the UK, Kiseki Films released a version with the dub and a subtitled version,[2] both uncut.
  • The 1997-2002 legal battles between the co-creators of Candy Candy over ownership of the series led to the prohibition of a massive number of merchandise on the series. Said merchandise include home video releases, preventing anyone from legally releasing the anime anywhere, not even Toei Animation in their home country; a halting that persists to this day.
  • In 1982, TMS and DiC decided to collaborate to create a spin-off series of Lupin III that took place in the future, titled Lupin VIII. One episode was already completely animated and given sound and music, but before they could add a vocal track, the Maurice LeBlanc estate (who owned the rights to the Arsène Lupin name) threatened to sue their collective butts if they were to broadcast it in Europe, so cancellation was inevitable. VHS tapes containing the first episode without voice-overs are still in circulation, however.
    • As a side effect, the cancellation of Lupin VIII was the direct result of the creation of Inspector Gadget, when DiC was told to come up with a replacement.

Comic Books

  • In the late 1990s, Black Mermaid Productions of Australia were responsible for Elf Quest: Wavedancers, which featured a group of aquatic elves. "Creative differences" between Black Mermaid and EQ publisher Warp Graphics led to the cancellation of the series, and an agreement that neither company would reprint it. Warp came out with its own Wavedancers series featuring new characters, while Black Mermaid is reportedly working on something called Elf Fin.
  • Zenith cannot be reprinted because Grant Morrison claims that when Rebellion bought the rights to 2000 AD from IPC, it apparently didn't include the rights to Zenith. The fans are disappointed.
  • Morrison's Doom Patrol was kept out of reprints until the 2000s because of a trademark dispute with the Charles Atlas bodybuilding company over the character Flex Mentallo, who began as a parody of Atlas's iconic comic strip advertisements.
  • Another well-known 80s superhero comic that has been caught in a rights-ownership dispute for decades is the Alan Moore/ Neil Gaiman Marvelman (Miracleman in America) - Rebellion, IPC, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Todd McFarlane all claim to own the series, which dooms any chance of it ever being revived. Marvel has apparently cleared the rights for the earliest stories featuring the character, but not for its run in Warrior magazine or Eclipse Comics. Said run, featuring the work of Moore and Gaiman, is naturally of the most interest to comic readers and is left as a particularly sad example of Keep Circulating the Tapes.
  • The 1978 one-shot comic Superman vs. Muhammad Ali was not reprinted until 2010, as the cover included the liknesses of over a hundred 1970s celebrities in the background. The lawyers had to be convinced no one would sue.

Fan Works

  • Sometimes this happens to Fan Sequels and Fan Remakes based on licensed properties, the most famous case probably being Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes. Of course, this should have been obvious from the start.
    • Chrono Trigger Resurrection met the same fate.
  • The Zelda fan-movie The Hero of Time was prevented distribution by Nintendo via cease-and-desist letter.
    • However, Nintendo was nice enough to let the creators keep the movie up for about half a month in the holiday spirit at the end of 2009, which is a hell of a lot better than most companies do.
  • The Warhammer 40,000 fan-film Damnatus originally had Games Workshop's full support, but during post production, problems with intellectual property rights arose due to differences between British and German copyright law. Thus, the movie was banned from official release. However, someone leaked the movie and can be seen. Thus, it was the lawyers that got screwed.
    • Turn Signals on a Land Raider, a Warhammer 40K webcomic, stopped because it was becoming too time-consuming and expensive to do. The reason the lawyers got involved is that the only way to really give it a chance to make enough money to continue was to make it into a book. But Games Workshop refused to grant permission. Despite that refusal being of questionable legality (it probably would be legal under fair use or parody), it wouldn't be worth the hassle if the guy got sued.
  • A Youtube user by the name of DisneyNAW spent nearly an entire year working on a fan-film called The Grand Adventure which was pretty much a Mega Crossover of everything Disney starring Mickey, Donald and Goofy as they try to take down Chernabog. Halfway through the editing, he got a letter from Disney telling him not to post it online. Not for copyright law or anything, though that could be considered a major factor, but because of how certain characters are portrayed. First was Mickey, who was portrayed as mischievous. While they thought he perfectly captured his character, they wanted to bring Mickey's mischievous character their own way. And the second was Chernabog being portrayed as an Expy of The Devil, which collides with another reason why they C&D'd it: It felt a little too dark and edgy to them. Despite these reasons, they enjoyed watching the movie and gave DisneyNAW compliments on making the film.


  • The indie Slasher Movie All the Boys Love Mandy Lane probably won't see the light of day in the United States for the foreseeable future, due to the company that held the American distribution rights to it going bankrupt and closing its doors. Also a case of Screwed By The Studio—the Weinstein Company dumped the film on the now-bankrupt distributor once they saw a number of horror films (most notably Grindhouse) go bust at the box office, despite having already paid $3 million for the rights to it.
  • Many people believe The Day the Clown Cried was never released due to poor taste but it was actually due to copyright issues over the script. In fact, Jerry Lewis was technically not supposed to finish it but he did, resulting in the movie being completed but rarely seen.
  • Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story was a sardonic biopic by Todd Haynes about Karen Carpenter's rise and bulimia-related death, with the additional gimmick that the Carpenters were represented by Barbie dolls. Due to the angry lawsuits from Karen Carpenter's estate and Mattel, the movie will probably never be screened legally again.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe was initially a victim of this, being a shared universe for a handful of cinematic characters adapted from a shared universe for literally hundreds of comic book characters. Thor, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America (comics), Hawkeye, Black Widow and Nick Fury can freely interact with each other in the movies just like they do in the comics, but the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four continued to exist in their own stand-alone universes for nearly a decade because their movie rights were owned by various competitors of Marvel Studios. For quite a while, it was thought that an Avengers-style crossover featuring the Fantastic Four or the X-Men was unlikely to ever occur, even though these are very common in the comics.
    • In a very oddball case, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch existed in both the MCU and in Fox's X-Men franchise, thanks to some complicated legal wrangling. However, the X-Men versions couldn't mention the Avengers, and the MCU versions couldn't mention mutants. However, in March 2019, Disney bought Fox (with Fox's eager cooperation) -- including all the Marvel properties. The X-Men and Deadpool are now part of the MCU -- and the MCU versions of Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch are now the "official" ones. And as of 2021, the Fantastic Four have also returned to Marvel (thanks to a failed attempt at a reboot a few years earlier), and are promised to appear as part of the MCU's Phase 4.
    • About the only major Marvel character not to return to complete control by Marvel is Spider-Man. However, Sony (the current holder of the film rights for him) has generally been very willing to work with Marvel, resulting in Spider-Man's arrival in the MCU as part of Captain America: Civil War and his subsequent film appearances.
    • Ultimately, it appears the MCU will be affected by this trope less and less as time goes on and licenses expire or end for other reasons.

Live-Action TV

  • The Charmings got complaints by the Walt Disney Company when ABC was run by Capital Cities, since it was an unauthorized parody of Snow White. It's unclear whether this or low ratings ultimately led to its cancellation, however, but Disney does now own ABC, opening up the possibility of a DVD release, though the heavy discouragement of press comparisons with the later Once Upon a Time by the network suggests that it considers it a Dork Age program.
  • ESPN had a series called Any Given Sunday: The Series Playmakers about five years ago which was a depiction of the behind-the-scenes actions of players of a fictional pro football team (in a fictional league). However, the NFL, who was in the midst of a new lucrative deal with ESPN, were not pleased of a stark and unflattering look at the world of pro football, and pressured the network to scuttle the show after one season, which they obliged. Several pro players like Warren Sapp praised the show for its realistic (to a point) depiction of football players and their shortcomings in the world, and criticized both the league and the network for trying to scrub anything negative about the sport.
  • This trope didn't kill The Film Crew outright (via Jim Mallon threatening to pull the Mystery Science Theater 3000 license from Rhino Entertainment if they worked with the project), but it definitely made things more difficult; Nelson, Murphy and Corbett eventually moved on to Riff Trax, which was much easier to produce.
    • Jim Mallon explained that the reason he didn't want Rhino producing The Film Crew, was they'd be spending money on b-movies for The Film Crew, when they could be using whatever money they had for b-movies shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Mystery Science Theater 3000 only secured temporary rights to their movies while the show was on the air, and the rights have to be re-negotiated for DVDs. It's not easy, or cheap).
    • Riff Trax itself is essentially immune to this trope due to a variation of style, however: they don't release the movies in any form, they merely release tracks of the cast talking about the movies; obviously the original copyright holders don't have any claim over things people choose to say about their films. (There are some movies available as pre-synced tracks, but they cost more, part of which goes to a payment to license them.)
  • Licensing and rights issues have prevented the home video release of many TV series over the years. Most notable examples include The Six Million Dollar Man and the original The Bionic Woman, which were withheld from North American VHS or DVD video release for close to 30 years before a breakthrough was reached that will allow their release starting in late 2010. The 1960's Batman series reportedly has such complex licensing that the general assumption is that it will simply never be legally released in a home video format until it finally enters public domain near the end of the 21st century. The 1996 Doctor Who TV movie has been barred from North American VHS or DVD release for similar reasons was thought to be permanently unavailable outside the British Commonwealth due to this; the warring rightsholders decided to bury the hatchet and a worldwide DVD release came in February 2011.
  • When future generations turn to DVD/digital recordings of today's TV series, many of these shows will be lost in their original versions due to music and sometimes entire scenes being changed due to licensing and clearance issues. Examples include: the theme song for Married... with Children being replaced on the DVD releases; a scene involving The Beatles being deleted from the VHS release of the Doctor Who story "The Chase" (it's in the Region 2 DVD); most pop music from season 1 of WKRP in Cincinatti being replaced with generic music for the DVD release.
    • The deletion of the clip from The Chase is particularly egregious, as that clip is the only surviving portion of The Beatles performance at Albert Hall (which was wiped from BBC archives for the same reason a lot of early Doctor Who was as well) and survived only because it was incorporated into the episode. These deletions fit the trope as well, because it was done in large part because the contracts with the actors' union in the period prohibited broadcasting any television program more than twice (and the entirely incorrect view of the BBC management that black and white programming was unsellable overseas).
    • Most of MTV's shows have been severely affected by this due to an agreement with record companies for free promotional use of their songs on the channel. Because of this pop songs are used in show soundtracks, but the rights would need to be purchased for video release. Shows like Daria and The State languished for years before The Jimmy Hart Version of the songs could replace the offending tracks.
    • Freaks and Geeks actually kept the original music for the DVD, paying all the necessary fees. This is why said DVD costs several times as much as DVDs for other shows.
  • The DVD releases of The Muppet Show have been repeatedly delayed due to issues with music rights. One entire scene had to be cut from a first season espisode because the studio was unable to secure the rights to a song used in that scene. Completely averted by Jim Henson's other major production, Fraggle Rock, as it used entirely original music.
  • The DVD release of WB's all-female superhero series Birds of Prey was held up for years (leading to an awful lot of Keep Circulating the Tapes needless to say) due to music rights issues; the fact that it was Screwed by the Network (cancelled in its first season despite good reviews and decent ratings, reportedly due to internal network politics) did not help. It was only after years of pleading from the fans that the series got a full release on DVD... with a note on the packaging, you may notice, that "some" of the music has been changed for home video release.


  • Redd Kross bassist Steven Shane McDonald added a bass track to the entirety of the White Stripes' 2001 album White Blood Cells, then put MP3s of the whole project (entitled Redd Blood Cells) online. Later on, after some kind of "arrangement," only the first track remains online.

New Media

  • The phrase "this video has been removed due to a copyright claim from *insert name of company here*" has become a well known sight on YouTube, even with Team Four Star, who put a disclaimer at the beginning of every episode they post. The Warner Music Group has also been responsible for taking away music from videos, saying that it's violating copyright.
    • Certain videos have managed to avoid this fate by claiming Fair Use.
    • YouTube has come under fire for the fact that they remove videos just because of an infringement claim without investigating whether the video is Fair Use or not. YouTube, and "Content Service Providers" in general, are required by law to pull without investigation as soon as they receive proper notice, or else they themselves can be Sued By The Lawyers. Uploaders can object to cases of "mistake or misidentification", in other words claiming that the copyright owner made a mistake when it failed to see that "it's legal Fair Use, damn it!"
    • One machinima short was completely muted by WMG specifically because of one short song clip used in the beginning of the video.
    • Curiously, there is a pattern that tends to emerge with what gets pulled and what doesn't, even aside from some content owners being more stringent about it that others: TV shows and movies (especially current ones) are the strictest, along with popular music (unless the artists deliberately use online distribution as free advertising). Music from other sources, though, tends to be less strictly enforced. Rarest of all to be cut are video game clips; since you can't actually play the game on YouTube, each video game clip is basically a trailer the producers didn't have to pay for. Also, AMVs are, for whatever reason, often kept in the same way Fanfic in general is rarely targeted, despite theoretically having two possible angry claimants.
    • But since anyone can make a copyright claim, they don't need any proof that you are the copyright holder, and since they don't investigate any claims, anyone who just doesn't like someone's video or even a bot can file a false claim. To dispute the claim, you must provide unnecessary personal information (your full name, phone number, physical address, email address) meaning most people who are the victim of a false copyright claim would just not bother disputing. Even though YouTube tells people not to file false claims and that repeated false claims could get the person is legal trouble, that doesn't stop people from filing false claims.
  • The above was what caused That Guy With The Glasses to start its own site...and now many years later, when Obscurus Lupa and The Nostalgia Critic's reviews of The Room got pulled for this very reason, fans got pissed.
    • The Critic responded to the legal threats by posting a video that was basically an entire episode's worth of Take Thats against the individuals responsible.
    • Luckily, Doug Walker successfully defended the videos as Fair Use.
    • Ironically, when the The Room review was pulled, it was possible to find it uploaded by other people... on YouTube.
  • One has removed its archived scanlations because of attitude shifts from some publishers.
    • In fact, quite a number of online scanlation sites have been shut down or censored due to publisher pressure.
  • Like many radio show hosts, Phil Hendrie allows website subscribers to download show episodes as podcasts. At some point, network lawyers decided that it was a copyright violation for podcasts to include music. This affected any skits that involved music, including his frequent parodies of Jim Rome's and Art Bell's shows that incorporated their respective "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Dancing Queen" theme songs, and his Running Gag of using the "Darth Vader Death March" as theme music for his fictional boss. The music in these cases was replaced by awkward silence, and if characters in Phil's comedy skits commented on the music, podcast listeners could not know what they were talking about.
  • Some flashes on Newgrounds are victims of this due to being based on copyrighted works, as Newgrounds has received cease-and-detest letters from companies such as The BBC (for a Teletubbies spoof called "Teletubby Fun Land", which has been eventually renamed to "Telebubby Fun Land"), The Jim Henson Company, and MGM (for a RoboCop flash tribute made by a fan).

Newspaper Comics

  • Garfield had a short run of Believe it, or don't gags... until PAWS Inc. got a cease-and-desist letter from the Robert Ripley estate.

Tabletop Games

  • Way back when, FASA had obtained a license to use a number of mecha from three anime shows -- Crusher Joe, Fang of the Sun Dougram and -- yep, you guessed it -- Super Dimension Fortress Macross for use in their BattleDroids wargame. Never heard of Battledroids? That's because George Lucas threatened a lawsuit over the word "Droid". So, the game became BattleTech. Then, in 1994, Harmony Gold complained and threatened a lawsuit over use of the Macross mecha in the game. The problem was that FASA had rights to the miniatures that originally came with the game, which were based on the aforementioned designs. But because of the way they were licensed, FASA did not necessarily have rights to the artwork, which Harmony Gold took them to task over. The battlemechs based on those designs continued to be used (The Warhammer and Marauder are some of the most famous 3025-era battlemechs), but not depicted in images, being dubbed the "Unseen".
    • A year or so ago, Catalyst Game Labs (the game's current publisher) gained the rights to use the artwork for much of the Unseen... except for Macross based designs, which Harmony Gold still retains control over.
    • Another attempt to bypass problems with the Unseen was the Technical Readout: Project Pheonix, which published updated, original artwork for the designs, using the art style for current-era Battlemechs. The different look is explained in-universe as a simple retooling of production lines to match current Inner Sphere tech standards, letting the new Reseen mechs exist alongside the original Unseen designs in the background and still allowing Reseen designs to be used in the art.
  • The owners of the Legend of the Five Rings card game were forced to change the art on the card backs...because, apparently, it was too similar to the design of the Olympic rings. At least, according to the International Olympic Committee. (For a Trading Card Game, changing the card backs is pretty much a death sentence for the value of any cards made pre-change.)
  • An popular game from Cheapass Games was "Before I Kill You, Mister Bond". (The premise was that villains don't just shoot the captured agent because he's worth more points if he's taunted a few times first.) It was pulled off the market after a cease-and-desist from MGM, and reissued as "Before I Kill You, Mister Spy". MGM didn't like that one either. Cheapass later re-released the game as "James Ernest's Totally Renamed Spy Game", and so far seems to have not garnered any attention from MGM again.
  • In the 1970's, Tactical Studies Rules Inc. narrowly avoided a lawsuit from Chaosium when they tried to incorporate the Cthulhu Mythos into the nascent Dungeons & Dragons. Chaosium, who had been sold the right to produce Lovecraft-related board games by copyright holder Arkham House, stipulated that TSR could keep the content if they credited Chaosium's "Call of Cthulhu" series. TSR backed down and removed the content instead.


  • The Bratz doll line was stopped in its tracks by a 2005 court case that found that the concept was created while its creator was still at Mattel, before making a comeback in 2010, although by that time, their popularity had waned (plus, the new dolls are a bit more conservative). This also had a more permanent knock-on effect for the Animated Series.
  • Bionicle was prevented from using certain character names due to threats of legal action from Maori activists, since many of the names were taken from the Maori language. Lego managed to avoid getting completely screwed/sued by altering the spelling of the names.
    • It wasn't so much the usage that was the problem, more that Lego wanted to copyright ancient cultural terms.

Video Games

  • Holy Invasion of Privacy Badman was forcibly renamed to What Did I Do to Deserve This My Lord? after an angry letter from Warner Bros.
  • The Tetris Company absolutely adores this trope. They claim to have copyrights on basically every aspect of the game, even those which the US Supreme Court has ruled cannot be copyrighted (Lotus v. Borland), and they'll send C&D letters to anyone who so much as dares make a game with falling tetrominoes, or even just the song "Korobeiniki" (which is actually a Russian folk song long in the public domain, but often remembered as "the Tetris theme").
    • Blockles was pulled after a lawsuit from The Tetris Company was settled out of court and replaced with a Puyo Puyo clone.
    • Mino was pulled in mid-2012 after The Tetris Company won in court. Turns out the "original" parts are the field dimensions and the seven tetrominoes.
    • Lockjaw and LJ65 were pulled after the news of what happened to Mino hit Slashdot.
  • In The Groove stopped development after a lawsuit from Dance Dance Revolution publisher Konami was settled out of court. Similar lawsuits on Guitar Hero (at this point owned by Activision) and Rock Band were less successful.
  • This trope is commonly theorised to be the reason that the MOTHER trilogy has remained a case of No Export for You ever since the series' sole American release in 1995. Japan has looser copyright laws than America, and it's believed that Shigesato Itoi refuses to allow the myriad cultural ShoutOuts, Jimmy Hart versions and a certain Salvador Dali themed enemy to be changed for another international release, and Nintendo is unwilling to override his decisions. The rest of the world may not be the only ones affected by this - notably, it's still absent from the Japanese Virtual Console even though it was included as a Masterpiece in the Japanese version of Super Smash Bros Brawl and explicitly named by Satoru Iwata when introducing the Virtual Console in 2005...
  • The fangame Streets of Rage Remake was yanked off of its' website days after completion due to Sega wanting to protect their IP, despite the fact that Sega themselves haven't made any more games in the series for over 10 years. Some theorized that it was because of the recent mobile phone port of Streets of Rage 2.
    • This came not only after the project had been in development for eight years, but also after Sega had (supposedly) given their blessing for the project as long as it was not sold for profit. Regardless, the finished game still proliferates on file-sharing websites, although any hope of a patch to fix bugs and unresolved issues with the game is probably kaput.
    • And yet, with the sheer volume of Sonic hacks and fangames freely available all over the place, that franchise has averted the deadly gaze of Sega's lawyers and this trope... so far.
      • That gaze averting being up to and including a fan's reverse-engineered remake of Sonic CD being picked up officially by Sega and sold through digital download services. Isn't it sad, Bomber Games?
  • Terrordrome was a promising Fighting Game pitting several horror movie killers, plus Ash from Evil Dead, against each other. However, just in the space of a few weeks the authors received C&D letters asking the removal of Ash, Freddy and Jason (pretty much spurned on by Freddy's inclusion in the Mortal Kombat Revival.) The loss of three of the most iconic characters (not to speak of all the effort that went into their making) was demoralizing for the team, and the project is probably dead. The last news post says it would have been better to avoid so much exposure.
  • Tales of Eternia was renamed Tales of Destiny II in North America to avoid copyright conflicts with the creators of He-Man, and is likely one of the reasons North American gamers didn't receive the real Tales of Destiny 2.
  • Most of the Super Robot Wars games, save for the Original Generations series, will most likely never be seen in the States since the American rights to the various mecha used are owned by far too many different companies (including our favorite, Harmony Gold).
  • This is also the case for the Jump Super Stars games, where various Shonen Jump properties are owned by different companies. Sometimes, a different company can hold the manga rights, anime rights, and the merchandising rights, as is the case with Dragon Ball.
  • Having various companies own American and European rights to Tatsunoko series was overcome for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, as Capcom went through the trouble (and money) to buy all of the rights for every series represented in the game and then some, with the exception of Hakushon Daimaou. This character was removed from the international version as the European copyright holder absolutely refused to sell the rights to Capcom.
  • The Quest for Glory series was originally going to be named Hero's Quest, but Sierra On-Line had to change the name to avoid potential copyright issues with the makers of the tabletop game Hero Quest.
  • The mission "Hollywood and Vain" in the Yuri's Revenge expansion pack for Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 featured parodies of iconic Hollywood action heroes, namely "Arnnie Frankenfurter", "Sammy Stallion" and "Flint Westwood", as controllable infantry units complete with (campy) voice impressions of the respective actors. While EA and/or Westwood could have easily cited Fair Use per Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. which set precedent for commercial parodies of existing works or people, they instead played it safe and disabled the actors' voices in patch 1.001, replacing them instead with a generic GI voice set. Patching the game to restore the excised voices is trivial though.
  • Ditto with The Revenge of Shinobi, which has seen five revisions due to copyright concerns (as Japan at the time had somewhat lax copyright laws). Like Yuri's Revenge above, Shinobi had cameos from a number of pop culture icons, namely Rambo, the Terminator, Spider-Man and Godzilla, as well as that of actor Sonny Chiba. Spider-Man was made official in REV02 when Sega obtained the video game rights to the superhero franchise, though Spidey had to be recoloured to a pink spandex in the Virtual Console release.
  • Take Two Interactive became notorious for this in the late 2010s to early 2020s when they filed cease-and-desist orders left and right against several popular Grand Theft Auto modifications, the most recent of which was re3 and reVC, a reverse-engineered source code recreation of Grand Theft Auto III and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City respectively. Take Two asserted that the programmers "are well aware that they do not possess the right to copy, adapt, or distribute derivative GTA source code, or the audiovisual elements of the games, and that doing so constitutes copyright infringement" and that the project caused "irreparable harm" to the company.

Web Comics

  • This infamous Penny Arcade strip showing Strawberry Shortcake In the Style Of American McGee's Alice had to be taken off the site due to a cease and desist letter the creators got from American Greetings. It is speculated that the reason why American Greetings filed a cease-and-desist was that they were rebooting the franchise at the time and ordered the offending comic strip to be removed as it might confuse if not upset children and/or their parents.

Web Originals

  • Channel 101 had to cancel House of Cosbys because of a cease and desist from Bill Cosby's attorney.
  • Moshi Monsters had to take down its character Lady Goo Goo and her music video "The Moshi Dance" and scrap the next planned music video "Peppy-razzi" after Lady Gaga's lawyers won a law suit against them claiming people would get confused and think the character was endorsed by her.

Western Animation

  • Disney's purchase of Marvel Comics put an end to Sony's production of The Spectacular Spider-Man. (In general, Disney's trying to avoid screwing with existing licensing deals, but Sony gave up the TV rights to Spidey so they could keep the movie rights.)
    • Greg Weisman explained the show's situation here; he even points out that the companies themselves weren't to blame, but that it was just bad corporate luck.
  • This caused the demise of King Louie of The Jungle Book in all Disney media. The family of the late Louie Prima (who voiced Louie in the original movie) sued Disney because Jim Cummings did too good a job impersonating Prima when he voiced the character in Tale Spin. As a result, Louie was completely absent from Jungle Book 2 and replaced by an Expy named King Larry in House of Mouse.
  • Beavis and Butthead is now available on DVD without many of the music video commentary segments due to not being able to license that amount of music. Arguably, those segments were half the reason why the show was entertaining. Even the segments that were made available for the DVD releases (on separate discs from the episodes themselves) aren't available online.
  • Some lawsuits by the members of the class depicted in Mrs. Munger's Class (whose likenesses were used without permission) ended the segment's run on One Saturday Morning and shut the door on plans for an ABC primetime version of the cartoon.
  • King of the Hill's third DVD set was released a whole year after the second, and rumor has it that the delay was related to licensing issues for the music, explaining the third to sixth season box sets' lack of bonus features.
  • The US release of The Tick (animation) animated series is missing one episode each in the two seasons released so far; due to a prominent minor character bearing a strong similarity to a well-known celebrity, and Buena Vista not wanting to spend the money to secure the likeness rights. Buena Vista still hasn't released the third season; for reasons unknown. The UK region 2 release by Lace International has all three seasons complete and uncut.
  • The rights to Transformers: Robots in Disguise were sold to Disney as part of a Saban Entertainment package deal,[3] thus making it unlikely to ever see DVD release, since Disney couldn't care less about Transformers to rerelease it and Saban couldn't care less about Transformers to buy the show's rights back from Disney as they did with much of their live-action input.
  • Music rights were the reason behind the long wait for Daria on DVD; being a MTV produced show, they (ironically) used snippets of new music constantly, often using ten or more just one episode. Even just lasting seconds long, it led to a mind-boggling amount of rights to shuffle through. Eventually, they decided it was either clear all the rights, and pricing Daria out of the market altogether, or re-produce music that sounds good enough to pass for whatever mood they were going for.


  • Some years ago a British food company produced a brand of chips [fries] called Stringfellows, which had to be withdrawn when nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow objected to the name.
  • McDonald's Corp. tried to force a Scottish fine dining establishment named McDonald's to close or change its name despite the latter being in business for over a century. The fast food chain lost the case. It helped that the Scottish restaurant was run by a high member of Clan McDonald.
    • McDonald's Corp. also attempted this in Malaysia, except that the dining establishment in question was a small Indian-Muslim restaurant whose only offense is that its name vaguely resembled McDonald's. The fast food chain lost that case, too.
    • One of the cases they did win was to convince a San Francisco coffeeshop to change its name from McCoffee, whose name was a pun on the name of the owner Elizabeth McCaughey, a good decade before they got into the coffee business themselves. These and many other examples can be found at The Other Wiki.
      • The reason that it's not particularly common to see parodies that use fast-food chains named "Mc-anything", or real-life businesses named "Mc-Anything", is because McDonald's has been so aggressive and successful at suing anybody who tries to, even when the business in question has nothing to do with food. Wal-Mart has taken on this role of late[when?], going after all the "-Mart"s of the world.
      • Many of these cases are in actual fact not because McDonald's or Wal-Mart are trying to be deliberate jerkasses, but because American trademark law demands that every infringement the IP holder is aware of must be defended against or they can be ruled to have abandoned the trademark when a major infringement case appears (such as the one directly below). This is why Xerox and Coca-Cola have been very careful to wage campaigns against using their product names as generics.
    • At least one famous case of McDonald's being clearly in the right was the early 1990s, was when they sued a South African businessman who was opening hundreds of fake McDonald's restaurants, complete with Big Macs.

  1. Although World War I helped put a nail in that coffin
  2. this is the version which has the infamous mistranslated line "My engine blocks are angry at me"
  3. Disney wanted to buy the rights to Digimon, but couldn't buy it separately. The only way they could get their hands on it was to buy all of Saban's shows as a package. This would be the same deal that landed them Power Rangers for a while, which They Just Didn't Care about enough to properly supervise the creative team for.