Created By: Thunderforge on April 26, 2013 Last Edited By: Thunderforge on April 27, 2013
Nuked

Copyrighted Out of the Series

When rights issues mean certain story elements disappear

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A more specific form of Real Life Writes the Plot, sometimes an adaptation of an existing work or a continuing story can't refer to certain previously introduced elements because of rights issues with the intellectual property (IP). If the current rights owners own some of the rights, but not all, or do not own the rights to original elements from other derivative works not produced by them, then story elements, locations, plots, or entire characters can be missing, even though the audience would expect them.

There are two types of this:
  • Type A: Two different companies licensed IP from a common entity, but their licenses don't allow for referencing original elements from the products created by other company. Yet because this work is Lost in Imitation, the audience expects the other work to be referenced in the new story, so the creators will have to work around it or omit the expected element entirely.
  • Type B: Creators of an ongoing work previously had the rights to a certain part of the IP, but lost it for whatever reason and therefore must continue on without ever again referring to elements related to it.

Often leads to a case of Chuck Cunningham Syndrome when an element with rights issues is never mentioned again. Explanations of their absence often include Reality Subtext if the creators weren't particularly happy with the circumstances.

Not to be confused with Screwed by the Network where the network or other controlling entity cancels the work and takes back all rights, preventing anything from being referred to in the future, although it could apply to an Un-Canceled work if not all rights were made available upon the work's revival.

See also Useful Notes: Copyright and Useful Notes: Trademark for more information about why rights issues might affect a story.

Examples:

Film
  • The Avengers film series will probably never include certain supers who joined the team at some point in the comics, like Spiderman, Daredevil, Wolverine, and the Fantastic Four, because other companies currently own the rights to create movies about those characters.
  • The prequel film Oz: The Great and Powerful pays homage to many aspects of the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz due to its widespread popularity, but this meant things that originated in the movie like the Ruby Slippers (they were silver in the book), the swirl of the Yellow Brick Road, and even the Wicked Witch of the West's green skin tone could not be used (they got around the last one by making it a slightly different shade of green).

Live Action TV
  • In the Stargate Verse, the only Stargate SG-1 characters to appear in the pilot episode of Stargate Atlantis were Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson, even though other characters like Col. Samantha Carter would have made sense given that the new series was very tech-heavy. Producer Brad Wright noted that MGM only allowed them to use pre-existing characters from the original movie for the pilot, although they were permitted to bring the other cast members in for later episodes. Things seem to have gotten straightened out later on because the pilot of Stargate Universe had both Samantha Carter and Walter Harriman from SG-1 making an appearance.

Tabletop Games
  • In Deadlands, the town of Gomorra was extensively featured in the spinoff game Deadlands: Doomtown. Unfortunately, all IP for the spinoff game wound up being transferred to AEG and because Gomorra was so heavily tied to the game, any reference to the town became a copyright gray area. Realizing they couldn't write about the town any more, future Deadlands supplements from Pinnacle explained that there was "the Gomorra Incident" resulting in the town getting blown sky high with nothing left to tell a story about and nobody left to explain what happened.

Toys
  • Some Transformers toys such as Jetfire, Shockwave, and Omega Supreme cannot be rereleased because they were not produced by Takara, but by various other toy companies.

Video Games
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns: The apparent reason that King Krool and the Kremlings don't reprise their roles as the villains in this game like the other iterations of the Donkey Kong Country series is because this game was developed by Retro Studios and Rare currently holds the copyright to those characters.
  • Knights of the Old Republic was originally going to include Vima Sunrider from the Tales of the Jedi comic series as a companion character, but legal issues with other companies had since developed over the name "Sunrider" and so Bastila Shan, a new character, was created to replace her.
Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • April 26, 2013
    DunDun
    I feel like this needs to be linked to UsefulNotes.Copyright and UsefulNotes.Trademark if it isn't already covered by things in those articles (they are massive to read).
  • April 26, 2013
    Thunderforge
    Could you explain more about why they should be linked? It looks like those articles just talk about the logistics of copyright, not how rights issues have actually affected stories, especially of continuing works where the producer does own at least some of the rights.
  • April 26, 2013
    DunDun
    This trope is about copyright issues affecting the story, so linking to an article about copyrights is helpful in understanding why or how copyright issues can affect the story.
  • April 26, 2013
    xanderiskander
    Video Games
    • Donkey Kong Country Returns: The apparent reason that King Krool and the Kremlings don't reprise their roles as the villains in this game like the other iterations of the Donkey Kong Country series is because another company currently holds the copyright.
  • April 26, 2013
    Thunderforge
    I added a link to the copyright and trademark pages, let me know if that's what you had in mind. Also added the DK game.
  • April 26, 2013
    Duncan
    Very similar to the Comics-oriented Exiled From Continuity.
  • April 26, 2013
    DunDun
    That's really all anyone can say when referencing those pages (esp. given how large they are). However, the "Type A" and "Type B" should be changed. I figure they're just placeholders until otherwise stated, but still. But to suggest names: I can't think of anything for type A but type B might be "Lost the Rights"?
  • April 26, 2013
    xanderiskander
    Donkey Kong Country Returns should be before Knights of The Old Republic alphabetically.
  • April 26, 2013
    ryanasaurus0077
    Interestingly, Sony and Disney tried to negotiate the appearance of OsCorp headquarters during the climax of Avengers; however, this fell through due to technical issues.
  • April 26, 2013
    KingZeal
    • In the late 2000s, Superboy practically vanished from all traces of DC Comics. This was because of a legal dispute between the estate of Superman's creators and the publisher.
      • In the Legion Of Superheroes animated series, a young Clark Kent was named "Superman".
      • In comics, Conner Kent (a clone of Superman using the name Superboy) was killed off, and his name practically stricken from the record. When the legal battle was cleared up, Conner was resurrected during Final Crisis.
      • Chris Kent, a young Kryptonian boy adopted by Clark Kent and Lois Lane, was never given a codename although he briefly acted as a superhero.
      • Superboy-Prime (an alternate-universe version of the Man of Steel) was renamed Superman-Prime. He also regained the name following the resolution of the legal battle.

  • April 26, 2013
    Chabal2
    Warhammer 40 K: There was a fifth Chaos god named Malal in earlier editions, who embodied pointless destruction (that is, they'd turn on Chaos forces, non-Chaos forces, each other...). However, due to the ownership being uncertain, he was dropped from current canon (though some references remain, like the Sons of Malice Legion) and the destruction aspect was split between Khorne (kill everything with a pulse and a skull) and Tzeentch (betray everyone you work forn, whether it makes sense or not).
  • April 26, 2013
    StarSword
  • April 26, 2013
    Astaroth
    The Order Of The Stick pokes fun at this in one strip; Roy is attacked by an illithid, but a pair of lawyers representing 'The spooky wizard who lives by the coast' appear and take the illithid away because it's a copyrighted entity and isn't allowed to appear in the comic, saving Roy's life.
  • April 26, 2013
    SharleeD
    Screwed By The Lawyers is more like when the entire work is cancelled because of copyright issues, not when it's revised to remove trademarked elements. If anything, this overlaps Writing Around Trademarks or Clumsy Copyright Censorship.
  • April 26, 2013
    SharleeD
    • When the Ravenloft setting's license was leased by Arthaus Games, it didn't include the rights to any other D&D setting owned by Wizards of the Coast. While previous Ravenloft products had openly stated that many of its darklords had come from the Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, or other published settings, the Arthaus products refrained from overtly naming these lords' places of origin. Furthermore, because the ex-darklord of Sithicus, death knight Lord Soth, is an iconic villain of the Dragonlance setting, it was unclear whether his name could be used at all: products addressing Sithicus's history refer to him as "the Black Rose" or merely as an anonymous undead knight.
  • April 26, 2013
    StarSword
    We also already have Exiled From Continuity. Between that and Screwed By The Lawyers, this is covered.
  • April 27, 2013
    Thunderforge
    I wasn't aware of Exiled From Continuity when I made this. So I suppose we should migrate all examples from this to that or Screwed By The Lawyers and then discard this?
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ltspjt7rd7ep9b80m8la1pcc&trope=DiscardedYKTTW