View Full Version : Legal Question
12-06-2006, 04:10 AM
Can anyone help me witha legal question?
I know many haunts use Freddy, Jason, Pinhead, etc. in individual rooms for a haunt, and do so without much stir because they refer to them as glove guy, hockey mask and nail face (or something... we'll refer to them as "pseudo" characters).
Anyone know the ramifications of utilizing multiple such characters in one haunt say a house of wax gone bad?
And, more importantly, what if you themed an entire HAAUNT to a particular set of "pseudo" characters? Such as Lord of the Rings or Nightmare on Elm Street, or Hellraiser?
Honda CB900F (http://www.cyclechaos.com/wiki/Honda_CB900F)
12-06-2006, 10:07 AM
Last year some folks with a New Line license were offering Freddy, Jason and Leatherface haunts for sale. They said they would pursue legally any haunts that used these characters without the right to.
Pretty much it is not "legal" to use movie characters without the rights. However we almost never hear of this being enforced. Many (most) haunts use them all the time, along with unlicensed music.
It comes down to:
a) Are you afraid of being caught and told to stop (possibly pay some fines…) or
b) Do you feel it is wrong to take someone else’s intellectual property? (Would you care if someone used your haunt name or logo in an other state?)
Some have guessed that the movie companies don’t really mind, because it keeps their characters in the public’s eyes, but that if they thought it was costing them money they would pounce in a heartbeat.
If you look at most large pro haunts you will see them moving away from movie characters because such haunts are too high profile to avoid being noticed by movie companies and the risk of financial or marketing disaster is just too great.
Some haunt producers are also actually interested in producing original content for their guests as well; if you are building a brand why use someone else’s work?
Another question lies in the pseudo characters that were mentioned. I think using certain sorts of characters (Hicks with chainsaws, scary little girls, evil clowns, masked killers etc.) is perfectly okay, you are simply basing your scenes on the same sort of source material the movies did. But once the character is totally recognizable ( Scary black haired girl + stone well…..) does it matter what you call it?
Ultimately it is your call, there is no doubt the public still likes movie characters, and they want to see them.
Personally I wouldn’t touch them, although for a wax museum theme it would be very tempting….!
12-06-2006, 10:36 AM
I agree with Ben, some REALLY good points. Having said that you are ripping off anothers ideas, and as he said, you might not get caught or a studio MIGHT not mind, another thing to consider is that most of the time, you will get a cease and desist letter. They won't MOST of the time sue you really hard or come after you unless you are having a haunt titled A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET STARING FREDDIE KRUEGER. Even then, you MIGHT get away with it if you are only open for a few nights in October, but again as Ben put so nicely, it all boils down to this: "Do you feel lucky, well do you punk?" (Sorry watched Dirty Harry last night)
Any way, funny you brought this up, I was thinking about something similar yesterday. The reason so many haunters are tempted to do this kinda thing is because the character and sets and plots are so well known. I have a seed of an idea that I am kicking around. How about if a haunt were to create their own mini movie with original bad ass characters? They could have the movie on their site as well as playing in the Q line. That way, you accomplish entertaining the q line & get the audience jacked up about meeting some of the characters from the movie If you have shot the scene in you sets or can recreate your sets at your haunt, they will be freaking out when they see that they are now in the same scene. Of course acting & the story would have to be good, but judging by some of the crappy movies and acting I have seen at the theaters, nothing beyond the ability of a DV camera and basic video editing that most of us have in our home computers. I mean, look at the Blair Witch movie. Simple story, crappy camera work, but great editing... hmmm, now just gotta come up with the plot....
12-06-2006, 10:45 AM
I have always wondered why more haunts don't try to give a show more peculair to their own area of the country, there have been killers and maniacs everywhere , throughout history, along with stories and rumors , disasters, hauntings, major and minor.
One time I was asked for advice when a charity organization was thinking of doing a haunt. The town is on an island in the middle of the Miss. River so I suggested aquatic monsters, drowning and boating accident victims("Hello Mr. Proppellor-stuck-in-head,they thought my ideas were very good.
Have an old junked boat pulled up into the front yard....
Afterwards I asked them how it turned out?
They had a Frankenstein Room, a Freddie Room, a Werewolf Room..........
Some people just play it so "safe" that they risk boring everyone to death.
They said it was a success, they never had another haunt.
Franky, Freddy,Wolfy were not wearing swim masks or fins on their feet either!
12-06-2006, 11:36 AM
Thanks for all the sound advice, I really appreciate it.
It isn't my intention to capitalize on any one elses ideas, but to present an original reworking of possibly recognizable characters. Does that sound as stupid as I think it does?
Without stating my plan outright, I was thinking of basing an entire haunt on characters from a certain pantheon/lexicon that, to the best of my knowledge, has never been utilzed in a haunt setting AND would be reworked as "zombie" forms of their original, living selves. I thought it would add a layer of fun to the haunt as some people who might be a bit more "hip" might actually recognise the original reference source.
A workable example might be to imagine the starship "DEADterprise" populated with zombie Kirk's and Spocks. Note that's just a BAD example. LOL
I'll rethink it though. I do respect creativity and originality, but I'm afraid the area I would be working in won't!
Suzuki GS750S (http://www.cyclechaos.com/wiki/Suzuki_GS750S)
Duke of Darkness
12-06-2006, 01:03 PM
Okay, I know that I have said this before, but an Internet forum is an awful place to look for legal advice. While the advice above is sound, I would very highly suggest sitting down with an attorney who is experienced in the area and tell them exactly what you want to do. You should be able to set up such a meeting for under $100 and is well worth it as opposed to taking the chance of being closed down. Sorry, but the attorney part of me always cringes when I here people asking for legal advice on the 'net.
That said, I agree wholeheartedly with the comments above. Originality is important. Too many haunts take the easy way out and steal the ideas of others. As far as your example, there are exceptions for "spoofs" of movies -- think Spaceballs to Starwars -- but, again, I would talk to an attorney to be sure that you fall within an exception.
Dirk -- I was playing with a similar idea, but with a slightly different approach. What about sponsoring a horror movie contest/festival. Pitch it to amateur film makers, college film programs, etc. The winning film(s) would get a prize, but would also be the theme for the haunt(s). You could screen the festival in the summer, then promote the winning films again in Fall with the haunt. Lots of cross promotion. A win win for everyone. This is something that could work very well for Kel and his theatre space, now that I think about it.
Anyway, just a bit of brainstorming.
12-06-2006, 06:25 PM
I would contact Cydney Neil at Rocky Point Haunted House. I know that a portion of her Haunt is a Slasher Wax museum with all the aforementioned characters. She also has done LOTR and Pirates of the Carribean as sections of her haunt, she would be able to give you an answer. Also Knotts Scary Farm has a maze called Terror Vision consisting of everyones favorite TV land TV shows with a twist.... and yes, Zombie captain Kirk and Spock are there !
Hope that helps,
12-06-2006, 07:00 PM
Remember "Bugsy Malone"? A "gangster movie featuring all little kids as the only actors on-screen?
Have all the famous Hollywood monsters played by little kids ,..oh wait, this has already been done...a couple of times, unfortunately.
Mr. Tuxedo says he might be costuming all of his cat friends as Hollywood Monsters next year and we will feature live felines running from room to room in these small costumes! Everyone an ankle-biter! (in costume , of course.)
12-06-2006, 09:49 PM
The movie company has also begun to sell midrange expense authentic masks and accessories to these characters. So who do they think will be the customers?
Mask collectors. To never see others from the shelf?
Halloween partys and costume competitions at bars? A one night or two night event with a low number of people?
Uncreative Haunted houses with a budget of $45? To actors that prefer to bring there own over wearing someone elses snot.
Sometimes even trying to be creative and having props available to long time haunts reject things for the traditional because in the case of Freddy Kruger, they have an Elm Street sign and a fence shocking gag that would require a bit of effort to have another vision. Alas then even the customers would suggest that this room could be a Freddy Room if it was some other origional creature doing the sparking! And customers seeing the Elm Street Sign will remark "I knew then my son and I were in trouble"
There is a deeper question. Most haunts have come about inspired to copy movies or to satire them and customers expecting the low budget haunts to offer this is all expected behavior. I think it is all part of the culture and hard to break from the low budget mentality.
On the same token, I love what Netherworld has done with a new yearly signature character with a back story and not only unique they may have created their own culture to an extent or the desire and sheer joy to see what they have come up with. They have put quite a bit of investment into every costume and followed it up with a back story in multi media to promote the characters and the haunt. All Great Stuff. They also have the ability to make what they are presenting funny as hell as well as disturbing and fans love all of that. It is the escence of what makes Horror Movies a fun past time as opposed to actually recreating the scene of a popular movie. Very smart these Netherworld dudes.
Meanwhile you can buy one off props or even crude facsimilies and get them autographed by the actor that played the character and they are supposed to be worth a lot of money. Even a non interactive wax museum is meant to be a tribute to a famous person, character or actor. It is also how it is presented. An artist will be spending 300 hours to get the exact likeness (usually they should have spent another 100 hours more) and here it is. A side show. Did they get permission? Well probably and don't they want to see their signature character represented among all the other famous things? even offer their signature goodies in the gift shop? Sure.
But a haunt where an un or low commissioned 40 hour per year actor is going to give his interpretation of Freddy, frankly this will not ever be given written permission and even told they sue haunts that do such things to discourage it. They may even be concerned of some bad press? Headlines: Jason is a pervert, news at eleven. What else are they going to say? Please submit a full back ground check and bonding for the individual that will portray our character then send also an audition tape of their presentation for our consideration. Nope, no way to police 500 such locations across the country so they have to live with how man $45 masks they can sell and put out a warning.
I'm not condoning flagrent disreguard for the law, other peoples creative property and so on. However, they the movie production companies are the ones that made the characters popular to begin with and this emulation is part of the now culture. It might also be a consideration wether this is a charity event or a for profit only mega-endevor in a town of 4 million with an advertising budget of $150,000 or more.
If you are going to put thousands of hours into an event and bank a measly $400 and it was still fun, who gives a crap.
Is it going to be like a phone conversation with a credit card company? Okay sir, we want you to cut the mask up right now while we are on the phone and mail it to me. That's a good boy.
12-07-2006, 09:02 AM
The Knotts haunt fell under comedy and parody in their application. Unknown about licensing. Their music is indeed licensed.
Some groups do not even consider for parody. U2 sued a garage band called Negativland for a song which parodied one of theirs. Never mind that it was played on kazoos with a tape of Kasey Kasem swearing up a blue streak in his studio, it got snagged in courts.
Knotts also did get in trouble some years back for using the Freddy character at the haunt. That entire situation was parodied the year after in a comedy show they present each year. Since then, they have stuck with original defined characters and in fact have a set of trademarks on their hosting character with his own backstory portrayed within the show. While Warner/New Line went after them, they seem to have a good constant license with Disney as Disney characters and park situations seem to turn up within the show.
There are historical and public domain archetypes that would be far better suited for redoing into characters than merely redoing common media types. The creativity or lack of creativity will show up in what you do and people will notice.
12-07-2006, 06:15 PM
Was the judge that heard this suit the one in Oaklahoma that had his own Kazoo under his robes?
This could have been an unfair influence in the case!
12-08-2006, 01:06 AM
ah yes, heard about him kazooing during the cases!
12-08-2006, 01:07 AM
12-08-2006, 01:21 AM
You can't copyright an idea, concept, principal or procedure. So no one can copyright an "axe murderer" but they can copyright a specific character like Jason. You are free to make similar characters but if they are SIGNIFICANTLY SIMILAR you could be in trouble. That's the test. Is the character significantly similar? The degree is up to a court.
12-08-2006, 07:23 AM
OK. I hereby copyright "Norman Noodleman" serial-killer who strangled people with a wet noodle!
"Do you hear that slippery sound? It seems to be following us through this dark maze, it's a 20 foot long wet, raw noodle being drug on the floor, the thickest, nastiest noodle ever designed by the Killing Labratorys, similair to the robotic noodle sent swimming to Cuba, Mission-Kill Fidel!
It crawled up on the beach a few minutes too late, it got baked in the hot sun!"
12-08-2006, 12:52 PM
And an entire Cuban village was reported to have higher colesteral.
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