Buddy can you spare a name?

July 13, 2004

Eugene Volokh points out an incredibly bad Missoury State Supreme Court Decision. Comic book artist Todd McFarlane used the name Tony Twist for a villain in his Spawn comic books. Tony Twist is also a semi-famous hockey player - I had never heard of him before, but it appears that the comic book character's name was copied from the real person. The hockey player sued and won.

Volokh wrote a very good amicus curae brief that, I was amused to note, made extensive use of Robert A. Heinlein, both as an author who used real people's names for fictional characters and as a real person who appears as a fictionalized character in other people's work (although, in the work cited, the Robert Anson character was supposed to be RAH while in the comic book case the artist is arguing that the villain was NOT supposed to be the hockey player.

My followup thought was more personal. I sometimes contemplate writing fiction, although I am a slow distractable writer and I have all I can handle with the monster. Still, I do expect to write it again someday. If this ruling holds, would I have to do due diligence on all my character names to make sure that they are not the same name as someone who could reasonably claim to be famous? We all have our 15 minutes of fame after all.

I hope it will be overturned, but considering the success that rent-seeking entities have had with copyright law lately, including the Sonny Bono steal-from-the-future-in-the-name-of-the-past Copyright Extension Bill, I worry.

Posted by Red Ted at July 13, 2004 09:11 AM | TrackBack

Bierman's Laws of Contracts:
(1) In any given document, you can't cover all the "what if's".
(2) Lawyers stay in business resolving all the unresolved "what if's".
(3) Every resolved "what if" creates two unresolved "what if's".
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Posted by: Sarah Tuesley at September 5, 2004 07:10 AM
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