DiscardedYKTTW Copyrighted Out of the Series YKTTW Discussion

Copyrighted Out of the Series
When rights issues mean certain story elements disappear
(permanent link) added: 2013-04-26 11:25:00 sponsor: Thunderforge (last reply: 2013-04-27 14:25:55)

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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.


  • 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.

  • 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.
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