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Screwed by the Lawyers
"Hey, hey, kids! Your old pal Krusty is going to teach you five new words: unlicensed use of my image!"
Krusty the Clown, The Simpsons ("Treehouse of Horror XIX")

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.

Sometimes, the reason why a trademark is so zealously protected is because the holder wants to prevent it from entering common use as a generic term, which would cause them to lose it. This has happened with Aspirin (once a Bayer trademarknote note ), 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. But note that this only applies to trademarks, not to copyrights. Additionally, note that (contrary to the common misunderstanding of this law) a company is never legally required to protect a trademark in order to keep it — they don't lose it simply for failing to protect it; they only lose it if it enters common use as a generic term to the point where it is no longer trademarkable.

The Other Wiki 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,note  land ownership,note  leasing rights and other areas — frustrates achieving a socially desirable outcome. To further complicate matters, organizations of all kinds try as hard as possible to blur the lines between copyrights, patents, and trademarks in their favour.

Related to Screwed by the Network.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 
  • The spectacular legal pileup on both sides of the Pacific Ocean between multiple rightsholders in the 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.
      • Tracks from the Macross Plus are being steadily removed from YouTube, due to complaints from the copyright holders to the music.
    • 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 such as 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, world peace and the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series 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 versionnote , both uncut. Now that DYRL has been released on Blu-ray, the unavaliability-to-those-without-a-region-2-player issue has been solved, but there is still another trope very much in play.
  • 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. Though somehow parts of Latin America were able to get a rerelease in 2012.
  • 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 Arsčne 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. Incidentally, the cancellation of Lupin VIII directly resulted in the creation of Inspector Gadget, when DiC was told to come up with a replacement.
  • Viz has not yet released the majority of the Monster anime on video, nor will it ever, due to the series's use of licensed music. The first half was released on DVD with the licensed music replaced, but the second half has "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" as a plot point and thus cannot be easily changed to something else. This hasn't stopped Viz from distributing this show digitally or it airing in its entirety on television, however.
    • The fact that the series apparently sold very poorly is probably a bigger factor than the music.
  • In 2008, Disney's Brazilian branch announced they would be publishing the Kingdom Hearts manga in the country (it was a match made in heaven — Disney's comics were already good sellers, so the manga served as a way to attract both readers of those comics and manga readers). However, Square Enix objected to the idea and stopped it from being published (after it was already announced), for the (rather odd) reason that the game was never officially released in the country, therefore getting Adaptation First on shelves was a no-no. BR Disney and Square Enix's squabble lasted for quite a while before the manga could finally be released in 2013, 5 years later.
  • A legal squabble between Shueisha and Makoto Raiku over Zatch Bell! resulted in Raiku gaining all rights to the series (including the anime). He proceeded to immediately void all international licence agreements, which forced Viz to halt their manga release three-quarters of the way through.
  • While Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam was released in the US, the DVD/Blu-Ray release had altered opening and ending music. This is because the opening and ending themes were written by 60's pop maven Neil Sedaka, who for reasons unclear (whether licensing fees, Old Shame or worries about being seen as Japandering) has not assented tho their use outside of Japan. This also affects Japan as whenever Zeta Gundam is used in a Super Robot Wars game, they end up using one of the series' incidental musics instead.
  • A peculiar case of this trope in Gundam Build Fighters: Due to legal agreements with Japanese TV networks, Mobile Suits that have aired on MBS and TBS in the last 5 years cannot be shown. This means the suits from the latter half of Mobile Suit Gundam 00 and from Mobile Suit Gundam AGE cannot be entirely used. Apparently averted with the Gundam 00 Movie and Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn, due to their nature as a feature film and OVA, respectively.
  • Similar to the Zeta Gundam example, the first opening of Kodomo no Omocha suffered the same fate. Tokio's contract prohibited their music to be used overseas so Funimation used the second season's opening instead. Furthermore, a member of Tokio cameos in the first episode while the forbidden song plays in the background. The English dub track simply renames the band "Kyoto" and again swaps in the 2nd opening song. On the Japanese track...silence.
    • It's not just overseas releases that suffered this fate. Johnny's Entertainment has a reputation for having a controlled, iron grip over its acts. The opening theme for Akazukin Cha Cha was originally sung by SMAP, but in all home releases, the opening theme was re-arranged and sung by a different vocalist. Also, 4Kids Entertainment originally streamed the original Japanese episodes of Yu-Gi-Oh!, but were forced to take them down because of contract regulations with Shunsuke Kazama, Yugi's voice actor (who is part of Johnny's as an Idol Singer).
  • Viz Media was forced to rename their release of Detective Conan by the original licensors because they (the licensors) were afraid of a lawsuit by the estate of Sir Arthur "Conan" Doyle after the whole Spike TV / Spike Lee debacle. Moreover, the name changes (which include the show being renamed "Case Closed") were even forced on Viz by TMS, making it one of the rare examples of a Macekre that actually wasn't the English production company's fault. Tokyopop's English release of the manga was also affected as a result.
  • A number of disputes involving CBS (who now owns the entire TV back catalog of...), Viacom (the English version's original distributor, and Nickelodeon's parent company; now a separate company from CBS), DHX Media (who absorbed Cookie Jar, who were previously known as Cinar, the original producers of the dub) and licensors Studio Ghibli (the successors to the original studio that produced the series) and Tohokushinsha Film Corporation have kept "Koala Boy Kokki" (AKA: "The Adventures of the Little Koala") from seeing a Region 1 DVD release. Only one VHS release was ever sold in the US, and that was only because the series was still running on Nickelodeon's Nick Jr. block at the time. Hope you were lucky to have taped the show then.
  • The first three Pokémon movies have not seen the light of day in the U.S. and the rest of Region 1 since their original theatrical and DVD releases. With the exception of occasional TV broadcastsnote , Warner Bros. (who distributed the three films to theaters) hasn't been able to warm up legal relations with Nintendo, The Pokemon Company (both of whom license the anime) and Toho (the owners of the Japanese versions of the movies). The prospect of a Region 1 DVD re-release or Blu-ray Disc release seems to be highly unlikely because of this.
    • Interestingly enough, Pokémon: The Power of One and Pokémon: Spell of the Unown managed to get available for purchase on iTunes around 2009-2010, courtesy of Warner Bros. Unfortunately, they were only available through that time period, as it was too costly to renew the agreement to keep the films on iTunes.

    Comic Books 
  • In the late 1990s, Black Mermaid Productions of Australia were responsible for ElfQuest: 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 Two Thousand AD from IPC, it apparently didn't include the rights to Zenith. The issues have evidently been overcome, however—The Complete Zenith is now on sale at the 2000AD website.
  • Morrison's Doom Patrol and Flex Mentallo were kept out of reprints until the 2000s because of a trademark dispute with the Charles Atlas bodybuilding company over the character Flex, 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 (Miracle Man 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 was left as a particularly sad example of Keep Circulating the Tapes. In 2014, Marvel finally began reprinting the Moore issues from the start in serial form, and has promised that once the Gaiman issues run out they will publish new issues that continue the arcs as originally planned.
  • The 1978 one-shot comic Superman vs. Muhammad Ali was not reprinted until 2010, as the cover included the likenesses of over a hundred 1970s celebrities in the background. The lawyers had to be convinced no one would sue.
  • In 2010, Ken Penders, former head writer of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog filed copyright claims for all of his characters and creations in an attempt to gain royalties for their use, promoting Archie Comics to file a lawsuit against him and take him to court to disprove his claims. While things didn't seem all that bad at first, the case began to swing in Penders' favor when it became clear that Archie could not prove their ownership of the properties in question and caused so many delays in court that the judge threatened to throw the case out, which would give Penders the victory by default.note  In a panic, Archie decided to remove all of Penders' creations from the comic while it was in the middle of a story arc that centered around them, throwing the plot completely out of whack and making fans (and the creative staff) livid. In the end, the two sides settled, and though Penders stated that Archie could be allowed to use his creations anyway, the conditions he put up for that didn't sit well with Archie and they instead decided to perform a soft reboot for the series via a Cosmic Retcon at the end of Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide.
    • There is also a rumor that this has made Archie very paranoid and they're going so far as to forbid the use of any character outside of the video games, the American cartoons and anyone created by current writer Ian Flynn. However, because of how differently things work between Japan and America, Archie isn't allowed to use anything from Japan outside the games. This earned them Sega's ire when one early issue used Sonic The Hedgehog The Movie.
  • For a couple of years, Viz featured a strip called Captain Morgan and his Hammond Organ, about a pirate captain who was more interested in playing 70s pop and disco hits on his Wurlitzer than in raiding other ships (it makes no more sense in context). Unfortunately, the copyright holders of the songs complained. Viz didn't have a leg to stand on legally, and the only way out was to have used songs that were out of copyright, like hymns and spirituals. Given that this would have killed the joke, Viz had no choice but to drop the strip.
  • Marvel Comics' Rom Spaceknight will probably never be collected in a trade. Rom was a space based hero who fought gigantic Eldritch Abomination creatures called the Dire Wraiths. But seeing as Rom is owned by Hasbro via Parker Brothers, Marvel doesn't own the rights to the name. The best we've seen is a Serial Numbers Filed Off offspring who talks about a great hero.
    • Something of the sort also happened to Godzilla as the beast once rampaged through Earth-616, chased by S.H.I.E.L.D. Once Marvel lost the rights to the beast, they used one story where one of the villains created during this time mutated him into something different, though that was retconned. He reappeared years later with a different, yet still Godzilla-like look, appearing just long enough so that his storyline with another character could be completed with him being killed.
  • The Spider-Man storyline Spider-Verse promises that virtually every Spider-Man in existence will show up in some form. However, there are eight that cannot be used. Seven have been confirmed, though: the Spider-Man portrayed by Tobey Maguire, the Spider-Man portrayed by Andrew Garfield, the Spider-Man of The Spectacular Spider-Man, the Spider-Man of Spider-Man: The New Animated Series and the three Spider-Boys from the Amalgam Universe. The first four is because of Sony Pictures. The latter three is because of DC Comics.

    Fan Works 
  • Sometimes this happens to Fan Sequels and Fan Remakes based on licensed properties, the most famous cases probably being Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes and Streets of Rage Remake. Chrono Trigger Resurrection met the same fate.
  • The Legend of 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.note  Thus, the movie was banned from official release. However, someone leaked the movie, so it can be seen. Thus, it was the lawyers that got screwed.
    • The leak was also a case of Exact Words. They were told that they didn't have to delete the copy on their servers but couldn't release it. They agreed and didn't put any security on their servers to prevent hacking.
      • Damnatus later got hit with this again when the leaked video's hosting site, MegaUpload, became the victim of a DMCA takedown.
  • 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.
  • A modding group building a total conversion of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim into Middle-Earth was told to C&D by Warner Brothers because they didn't want it competing with The Lord of the Rings Online.
  • Happened to the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan game Fighting Is Magic. For well over a year, the fandom had been eagerly anticipating the game, as it seemed to be very high quality, with everything from the mechanics to the music. Even though the game was free, Hasbro was hesitant to have their property associated with a fighting game, and sent a cease and desist letter very late in the game's productionnote  The ending isn't all bad, as Lauren Faust volunteered to step in and make original characters so the game could be finished in an altered form.
    • Plus, some bronies from 4Chan took the existing code that had been floating around, modded in Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy, and are planning to make other ponies playable. Essentially, this means that the C&D split Fighting is Magic into two different games instead of putting a stop to it.
    • The Dating Game Visual Novel Starswirl Academy and adventure game Questria got off easy in comparison. Questria made the decision to divorce itself from MLP on its own, leaving a cast full of Captain Ersatzes. In the case of the former, a Hasbro representative simply requested that they change the characters' designs and names to be not infringing, to which the development team obliged.
  • Marvel Comics put the kibosh on various super hero skins for The Sims.

    Film 
  • The indie slasher All the Boys Love Mandy Lane didn't see the light of day in the United States for years, 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 StudioThe 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. Luckily, it received a limited Stateside theatrical release in October 2013.
  • 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.
  • In a rare example of an actor being forced into servitude by a film studio (after the end of the contract player era), Mike Myers withdrew from a proposed adaptation of his Saturday Night Live sketch Sprockets due to Old Shame of a script he wrote for the film. This pissed off Universal so much that they sued him a year later for failure to abide with the contract he signed with them. He tried to countersue, but a settlement was eventually reached in which he was required to work on a different project for them. After Tim Allen withdrew from playing the title role for the Live-Action Adaptation of The Cat in the Hat, Myers was eventually brought in. This event, along with his reputation of being a Prima Donna on set, contributed to his eventual downfall.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a big victim of this, being a shared universe for a handful of cinematic characters adapted from a shared universe for hundreds of comic book characters. Thor, Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Nick Fury, and recently Daredevil and Ghost Rider can freely interact with each other in the movies just like they do in the comics, but Spider-Man, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four continue to exist in their own stand-alone universes because their movie rights are owned by Twentieth Century Fox and Columbia Pictures (or, to be more accurate now, Sony Pictures) due to the way Marvel Studios operated back before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was conceptualized. As awesome as it would be, it's unlikely that we'll ever see an Avengers-style crossover featuring Spider-Man or the X-Men, even though these are very common in the comics. This even prevented Spider-Man from appearing in Marvel Studios' upcoming adaptation of the Civil War arc, in which Spidey plays a major role. According to rumors, Sony was in negotiations with Marvel to share the film rights in exchange for financial benefit to Sony. Unfortunately, leaked documents as part of a massive cyber attack against Sony Pictures revealed that Marvel disagreed with the provision that Sony have creative control over the character, and talks ultimately broke down.
    • Two major exceptions to this situation are Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch: Being equally known as mutants and as Avengers in the comics, Marvel Studios and Fox have shared dibs on them, with Quicksilver appearing in X-Men: Days of Future Past and The Avengers: Age of Ultron. The sole stipulation is that Marvel Studios cannot have them be mutants and Fox cannot discuss their time as Avengers.
    • The main caveat with the film rights is basically "use it or lose it", meaning that if certain film rights aren't used, they revert back to Marvel. Thus, Fox and Sony are rushing out X-Men and Spider-Man films respectively in rapid succession to keep the film rights away from Marvel, and Fox is rebooting the Fantastic Four in hopes that the second try will work out better than the first in order to justify making movies to keep the film rights away; conversely, they both simply gave up on Ghost Rider and Daredevil due to their box office weakness under their tenure. The whole rights debacle is also the main reason why the Spider-Man movies were rebooted.note  A notorious example of this is New Line Cinema's Blade Trilogy, based off Marvel's Blade franchise. Wesley Snipes' three-year prison sentence for tax evasion led to Marvel Comics yanking the film rights from New Line/Warner Bros. due to the studios being deemed unable to pull off a fourth film on time without Snipes.
  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension allegedly saw attempts at continuation blocked, despite interest, because rightsholder David Begelman feared that his creative bookkeeping might get exposed in the process.
  • Let It Be. Observers have said that the film will likely never be rereleased as long as Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are still alive, due to its unflattering and downright painful look at the slow collapse and eventual breakup of The Beatles.
  • Nosferatu was nearly lost forever after the studio was sued by Bram Stoker's estate for its similarities to Dracula.
  • The Janus Head was basically The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with the names changed, and it got sued by the R.L. Stevenson estate. The problem was that if they did it as a straight-up Jekyll and Hyde movie, it would give away the ending. Unlike Nosferatu, this one really seems to be gone forever.
  • The best Mario Bava, Rabid Dogs, is the one he himself never lived to see. The reason? The producer died as production was nearing completion, and his creditors, taking advantage of it, froze his assets and seized the film for over two decades. Owing to the circumstances, a Conspiracy Theory exists where the creditors put a contract out on the producer just to screw Bava's greatest masterpiece over.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Australian version of the game show "It's a Knockout" was axed after three seasons, not due to low ratings but because of noise complaints from residents living near the sports ground where the show was taped. Due to lack of a suitable venue in Australia and insurance reasons, the IAK revival series was shot in Malaysia.
  • The Charmings got complaints by the 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.
    • It should be noted that ABC never owned the rights to The Charmings. Sony currently owns the program, a chance of a DVD release seems moot.
  • In 2003, ESPN aired a series called Playmakers 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 with the stark, 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. Later on the Playmakers name was used to market a line of cheap footballs and basketballs with ESPN branding.
  • Another, uglier version with ESPN was played out when the NFL allegedly stepped in and told them to no longer market with PBS, or have their reporters contribute to the Frontline documentary League of Denial involving concussions and brain damage among players in the league. The writers of the tie-in book work for ESPN and continued to work with Frontline independently, though without the Worldwide Leader's backing.
  • This trope didn't kill The Film Crew outright (via Jim Mallon threatening to pull the MST3K 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 RiffTrax, 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 MST3K (MST3K 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).
    • RiffTrax 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 fall into two categories: either films that are public domain [primarily shorts — one source for them are public domain archives], and B-movies that they can afford to buy the rights to.)
    • Speaking of MST3K, this got hit with the Volume 10 release of DVDs. One of them was Godzilla vs. Megalon and had been available for a short while. Then, Toho stepped in and said "no". A Volume 10.2 was soon released with a special Host Segment created to show why the movie wasn't included.
    • Until recently, Shout! Factory couldn't release the episode featuring Pumaman because no one knew who to contact. It wasn't until late 2013 that they somehow did and the episode was released.
  • 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 had such complex licensing that the general assumption was that it would simply never be legally released in a home video format until it entered public domain near the end of the 21st century, that is, until it was announced that it would indeed gain a DVD release in November 2014. The 1996 Doctor Who TV movie was thought to be permanently unavailable outside the British Commonwealth due to this; the warring rights-holders 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 Cincinnati 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 a similar 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.
    • Cold Case has yet to be released on DVD because they've been unable to secure rights to the licensed music used in the episodes. Many episodes used multiple songs from a particular artist, played over all the flashback sequences as well as the end montage. Because of this, it's impractical to replace or remove the music, but just as impractical to gain the rights because of all the different artists used in a given season.
  • The DVD releases of The Muppet Show have been repeatedly delayed due to issues with music rights. Several scenes had to be cut from the Season One set because the studio was unable to secure the rights to certain songs used in the show. Completely averted by Jim Henson's other major production, Fraggle Rock, as it used entirely original music.
    • This hits the Muppets often, for instance with re-releases of the full-length Christmas special A Muppet Family Christmas, where large chunks of the special have to be excised due to music rights, leading to a good deal of Keep Circulating the Tapes for those who find the special a celebrated part of their Christmas tradition.
  • 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 that "some" of the music has been changed for home video release.
  • Anyone trying to watch Quantum Leap on Netflix instant video will be unable to watch the whole series in it's entirety. Quite a handful of episodes are removed for legal reasons, most notably because of the music used in said episode. What's worse is that some of these episodes are omitted from the DVD release as well.
  • DVD release of The State was delayed for years due to music rights. The show first aired on MTV and had the rights to use any music then receiving play on the channel. However, the rights to each song had to be renegotiated for DVD release.
  • The lack of a Star Trek series following Star Trek: Enterprise. See here for more details.
  • Possibly a reason why episodes of Maury prior to September 1998 are no longer rerun or showcased. That bulk of the series is owned by CBS, while all episodes after that era have been produced by NBCUniversal. The relationship between the two has been so sour that not even Maury Povich himself has been able to get the two to make up and allow the episodes to be shown again.

    Music 
  • 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.
  • George Jones's 1989 single "The King Is Gone (And So Are You)" was pulled as a single because it contained the phrase "yabba-dabba-doo" and thus became the subject of a lawsuit from Hanna-Barbera.

    New Media 
  • The phrase "this video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by *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 violates copyright. If a video gets blocked for copyright infringement, the user who posted that particular video would usually get a copyright strike and would be forced to watch the Happy Tree Friends video about copyright law and take a trivia question. If a user gets three strikes, their account will be banned and all of the user's videos will be removed from the site.
    Announcer: Even though YouTube is a free video sharing site, you can still get into serious trouble. You might lose your personal belongings. Even worse: You might lose your YouTube account. The video you posted would be blocked according to the Copyright law. You will be notify via Email and in your account status. And you will get a strike (Russell screams). If you get a third strike, you will be banned from YouTube. And all of your videos will be removed from the site.
    • 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 blocked 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 than 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 Fan Fic 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 in legal trouble, that doesn't stop people from filing false claims.
      • Viacom was possibly the worst offender, it was known to claim copyright claims to properties it didn't own, like Mass Effect playthroughs. They also claimed clips from Sesame Street that aired on Noggin, because they owned Noggin. And it had the Noggin logo on the bottom right. That is why a lot of Sesame Street uploaders such as Jonny T Bird 4789, Nantosuichoken, and many other users were terminated from Youtube.
      • Viacom has also become infamous for filing infringement claims against content uploaded by its own authorized agents. The fact that Viacom itself cannot reliably differentiate legally uploaded from illegally uploaded content contributed to the collapse of their suit against Google for YouTube content.
      • Warner Music Group (yes, them again) is another notable offender. They have made copyright claims to properties that they didn't own, like Disney cartoons (such as Disney's Marsupilami), and many Disney uploaders were banned from YouTube because of that. The same thing happened with Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego; they claimed they owned the theme song by Rockapella.
    • Capcom and some other video game companies are starting to remove playthroughs and walkthroughs of their games, especially more recent ones, from YouTube.
    • Nintendo is a bit of an odd case. They never really had any issue with LP's of their games, but in May 2013 they suddenly began claiming full monetization rights for videos that use their content. For Let's Play channels that primarily use Nintendo games, such as The Runaway Guys and the Game Grumps, this new policy effectively crippled their income.
    • Konami is very protective of Metal Gear Solid. Twice now they've threatened to sue (not simply have the videos taken down, sue) Machinima and Two Best Friends when the latter announced their intentions to do LP's for Metal Gear Solid 4 and Metal Gear Solid: Peacewalker. Ironically, they had no issue with the Best Friends' Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance LP.
    • Also works re: preventing YouTube videos from working outside of specific countries.
  • 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 Room review was pulled, it was possible to find it uploaded by other people on YouTube.
  • Many online scanlation sites (such as One Manga.com) have removed their archived scanlations because of attitude shifts from some publishers. In fact, quite a number of them have been shut down or censored due to publisher pressure.
    • Manga Fox is a good example. After a manga is licensed, they usually take down the hosted scanlation, leaving just the synopsis and forum discussions. Quite a few licensed manga are still up there to read, though.
  • 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.

    Other 
  • 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, going after all the "-Mart"s of the world. Though in both cases, this is largely because they can lose the their valuable trademarks if they don't pursue every known possible infrigment, the legal term is "Abandonment".
    • At least one famous case of McDonald's being clearly in the right was the early 1990's, was when they sued a South African businessman who was opening hundreds of fake McDonald's restaurants, complete with Big Macs.
  • 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 not only took certain character names from the Maori language, it apparently tried to trademark them so that it held the rights to words from Maori language. Due to threats of legal action from some Maori tribal groups, Lego changed tack and altered the spelling of the names. This is odd, since trademarks are contextual. For example, DC Comics has a trademark on The Flash, and that is a perfectly valid trademark, but that doesn't mean that they've trademarked the word flash and that you can't use it anywhere with any meaning. Most likely the Maori groups' complaint was not about the trademark itself.
  • Quakers, the religious group that is a Christian sect, once tried to sue Quaker Oats for using the name of the religion (established in the 1600's) and the image of a supposedly historical Quaker. However, due to the fact that the official name of the religion is the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers lost the lawsuit to the company.
  • Sony has in the past gone after restaurants called Soni's. Back in the late 80s they forced the closure of an upscale Baltimore restaurant that had been in business for over 30 years.
  • Toho is extremely aggressive in protecting their Godzilla trademark, even going after anyone who uses a name ending in -zilla, such as a steak house using the name Steakzilla.
  • A downright horrific example of lawyers screwing things up is genetically modified food; companies developing genetically engineered plants such as Monsanto are believed by many to be Obviously Evil, as their patented seed is a self-replicating product — meaning that if pollen from a patented plant blows over from a neighboring plot into yours and starts producing a certain patented genotype or trait, you're technically guilty of patent theft. And the government has repeatedly threatened to cite Brand Name Takeover and revoke biopatents — flushing billions in R&D down the toilet — if the agricorps don't put serious effort into defending them. Thus, seed cleaners (machines used to prepare harvested seeds for storage and replanting) are all but illegal, and are regularly RICO'd as "evidence of patent theft". As a result, unpatented crops are in serious danger of going extinct.
  • Hasbro and DreamWorks Animation had planned a merger in November 2014. The talks, however, were called off after only two days. Although a common reason was disagreement over CEO's Jeffrey Katzenberg's sale price, which analysts viewed to be more than the company's actual worth, others claim that the talks were called off when Disney, DreamWorks' rival, threatened to cancel their deals and contracts with Hasbro if the merger went forward.

    Pinball 
  • Unlike other games in the series, Zen Studios' Spider-Man pinball is not available as downloadable content on some platforms' versions of Pinball FX or Zen Pinball. Instead, licensing disputes between Marvel Comics and Sony require the player to purchase a separate game, "Marvel Pinball", and get it there instead.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • ECW used popular rock, metal, punk, and hip-hop tracks for everything, from wrestler themes to show themes to video packages, to further their image as a hip, rebellious, underground promotion. Unfortunately, it was also a very cash-strapped promotion, which meant that said music had to be edited out of home video releases to avoid legal entanglements. Part of the reason the promotion commissioned and published the ECW Extreme Music and ECW Anarchy Rocks CDs was so that they could have less expensive cover versions by less well-known bands at their disposal instead.
  • The wrestling vampire Gangrel was used much less in WWE after White Wolf threatened to sue for infringement, as Gangrel was the name of one of the vampire clans in its Vampire: The Masquerade RPG. They settled for a 5-year agreement which White Wolf would be credited in any material in which Gangrel was used. White Wolf would eventually sue the WWE in 2008 after they used Gangrel in the Raw 15 Year Anniversary Battle Royal without credit.

    Tabletop Games 
  • The owners of the Legend of the Five Rings card game were forced to change the art on the card backs because, according to the International Olympic Committee, it was too similar to the design of the Olympic rings. (For a Trading Card Game, changing the card backs is pretty much a death sentence for the value of any cards made pre-change.)
  • A 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.
    • A similar situation occurred with Elric material, Chaosium owning the rights and TSR publishing some content. It didn't help that Michael Moorcock failed to realize that two different companies were involved and approved TSR's publishing material he had licensed to Chaosium. The situation was resolved as with the Cthulhu material.
  • When BattleTech first debuted, it made liberal use of 'Mech designs licensed from various Japanese animes. Problem was that they weren't properly licensed, and Harmony Gold, the American distributor and owner of these designs, took issue with the 'Mechs. They are now called the Unseen.
    • Even worse, there is, officially no first edition of BattleTech at all. The first edition was actually a game called "BattleDroids". The word "droid" is a registered trademark of LucasFilm. Lucas' lawyers sent a letter to FASA, who took the opportunity to refine the game while renaming it.
  • The Pokémon trading card game: The franchise's owners were sued by self-proclaimed psychic Uri Gellar, who claimed they used his persona in a negative way as Kadabra. The company won, saying it didn't base Pokemon on people (although Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan and Wobbuffet may beg to differ, and, in all fairness, the Japanese name for the mon, "Yungerrer", and said mon's use of bending spoons to demonstrate psychic powers are clear references), but there still hasn't been a release since then of a Kadabra card in the game. Oddly, Abra and Alakazam do show up, even though (since older cards, including all printed Kadabra cards, are disallowed in tournaments) Alakazam can only be played nowadays with special cards allowing the playing of evolved Pokemon, or in the case of a few Japanese releases, as special variants that don't count as evolved at all.
    • Either way, one wonders why he would level his suit at the TCG instead of, you know, Game Freak - the developers of the Pokemon video game series, the core canon around which everything else in the franchise ultimately revolves. It's not as though Kadabra never existed in the video games and was made up solely for the TCG or something, so it would make more sense to aim for the source rather than derivative material.
  • When White Wolf released their sci-fi game Ćon, they ran afoul of MTV, who saw it as challenging their trademarks for Ćon Flux. WW settled things by renaming Ćon to Trinity; as a result, copies of the original corebook with the Ćon name are much sought after. The new edition gets around the issue by making the full title Trinity Continuum: Ćon, which is apparently different enough for the lawyers.

    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, but often remembered as "the Tetris theme").
    • The Tetris Company being such hardasses are basically the reason the Tetris Grand Master series no longer exists.
    • Blockles was pulled after a lawsuit from The Tetris Company was settled out of court.
  • 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 Activation) 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 Shout Outs, Suspiciously Similar Songs, 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.
    • Earthbound would later get a genuine remastered release for the Wii U Virtual Console in July 2013, and some interviews around the time the VC release was announced indicated that the legal issues weren't a factor at all.
  • The fangame Streets of Rage Remake (which was in development for eight years) was yanked off of its website days after completion due to Sega wanting to protect their IP, despite the fact that Sega had (supposedly) given their blessing for the project on the condition that it was not sold for profit. Some theorized that it was because of the recent mobile phone port of Streets of Rage 2. Luckily, even though developer Bomber Games is legally unable to distribute it, that hasn't stopped fans from circulating the final version on the web anyway.
  • In light of the upcoming release of the Japan-exclusive Shining Ark, Sega has launched something of a crusade against anyone who has uploaded videos of older Shining Series games to YouTube and/or Nico Nico Douga, hitting many uploaders' accounts on both sides of the pond (including popular commentator TotalBiscuit) with DMCA notices and causing a number of uploaders to either pull their videos immediately or even see their accounts being shut down as a result.
  • 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. The biggest hurdle in this is Harmony Gold, who has been rabidly protective of the Anime/Robotech franchise and its components.
  • 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.
    • While the original Japanese-only release of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes had character themes during battles, they were removed in Ultimate All-Stars. This was due to Capcom not being able to get the music rights for the Tatsunoko characters, as their themes were instrumental versions of their respective TV show theme songs. Instead, the stages were given original music themes.
  • The Quest for Glory series was originally 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 initial (EGA) release of the game did have that name, though.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 managed to avoid the total Screwed by the Network suffered by Obsidian's previous game Knights of the Old Republic II. It got two full expansions and a premium module, but it was still fairly buggy when Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast sued Atari over license agreement violations. Continuing game updates after that was probably a low priority. It also resulted in the Steam version being pulled, though it has since been rereleased on GOG.com.
  • Don't expect the first Blood Omen to be rereleased on GOG.com any time soon, due to a spectacular case of Executive Meddling-induced legal bridge-burning between Silicon Knights and Crystal Dynamics (with Activision as an involved sideline third party), which is best left explained in details by NeoGAF user Mama Robotnik.
  • Speaking of Silicon Knights, you probably would want to hold on to your copies of Too Human and/or X-Men: Destiny if you bought them before Silicon Knights lost a lawsuit against Epic Games over the latter's Unreal Engine 3 technologyreason . Don't expect to see any fresh copies in any warehouses after 2012, as the court ordered Silicon Knights to eradicate all of the game code for and unsold copies of Too Human, Destiny, and all of their future unreleased projects.
  • A number of amateur game programmers were attempting to make an MMORPG based on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and had the game's servers running for about a month before Hasbro slapped them with a C&D letter. At first they thought it was a hoax from some troll, but closer inspection revealed that Hasbro indeed wanted them to stop. Presumably this was to avoid conflict with the Gameloft game Hasbro later released.
  • Thrill Kill was all but completed when its publishers shut it down over fears of parental-group lawsuits. It now exists in a number of pirated copies initially distributed by its irate programmers.
  • The Wii ports of the Humongous Entertainment games are noteworthy — Atari contracted Majesco to port some of the games, who then outsourced it to Mistic software, who had the SCUMM SDK and every tool they needed to port the games without much hassle. So what did they choose to do? Completely ignore it, and just slap a ScummVM build onto it, which is a GPL licensed virtual machine that happens to be capable of playing Humongous games. Long story short, they failed to comply to the GPL, and the games had to be pulled. Admittedly though, a lot more people were mad at Mistic in this case than the lawyers.
  • The Amiga CD32 was never released in the U.S. due to a patent dispute, which was the final nail in Commodore's coffin.
  • The N.G.O. Superpower SPECTRE from the James Bond franchise had to be renamed OCTOPUS in 007: From Russia with Love due to a legal dispute between MGM/UA and screenwriter Kevin Mc Clory's estate over the film rights to Thunderball.
  • MechWarrior Living Legends was a fan-made (and officially licensed) total conversion mod for Crysis Warhead, first released in late 2009. It offered combined-arms gameplay (infantry, tanks, aircraft, and battlemechs all fighting at once) unique to the franchise. A few months after the official new game, MechWarrior Online (which was free-to-play) was released in 2011, the Living Legends developers were forced to quit developing and disband after their final update release in January 2013, update 0.7.0, as the developers of Online essentially yanked the Mechwarrior license away from the Living Legends development team. The official reasoning was that the Online developers "didn't want to double up their efforts" to compete with a free mod with a total playerbase of about a thousand players (about 1% of Online's) which was, embarrassingly, releasing new content at a faster rate.
    • The team (MekTek) developing the free release of Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries and its Expansion Pack / Game Mod "Mekpak" got caught up in the same legal scuffle - they, like Living Legends, had the rights to distribute the game (granted by Microsoft) - but when Online came out, their license mysteriously disappeared when Online's development team acquired the rights to the franchise. Unlike Living Legends which could continue to distribute their game, Mektek was required to remove all copies of the game from their website.
  • Golden Eye 1997: Much like the Batman show mentioned above, complex licensing issues have kept this game from seeing a rerelease despite its critical and commercial success. The rights, as of 2013, are in a confused mess between Nintendo (the original publisher) and Microsoft (owners of Rare, the original developer), and getting two bitter Console Wars arch-enemies to work together isn't easy. (Before 2013, Activision was also involved due to owning the James Bond game license at the time; currently, no other publisher has dared to pick the license up due to the financial bombing of Activision's 007 Legends) Then there's probably an issue with the image rights of the various actors and actresses whose likenesses appear in the game. Fans looking to play the game in its original form are just going to have to keep circulating those cartridges.
  • Kaiju Combat has the official name of "Colossal Kaiju Combat" due to copyright concerns from Kaijudo.
  • When Sonic the Hedgehog CD was released for iOS, Android, Xbox 360, and Playstation 3, it came with both Japanese/European and American music. However, the Japanese themes, You Can Do Anything and Cosmic Eternity - Believe In Yourself, had its lyrics removed. This is rumored to be due the estate of the late Casey Rankin being unable to allow them to use his contribution to the song.
  • The wonderful No One Lives Forever is not going to get any kind of rerelease in the foreseeable future, because nobody seems to know who holds the rights to it. The game was originally published by Fox Interactive, which was bought by Vivendi Universal which in turn was eventually acquired by Activision. However, according to Activision's lawyers, they do not currently possess the rights to the game. The developer Monolith isn't any wiser on the subject either.
  • The reasoning for currently no other Star Trek TV series also hurts video games. For instance, Star Trek Online is not allowed at all to use anything from the new movies. It is actually set in the original timeline after the destruction of Romulus. They can reference Nero and Spock Prime (and Leonard Nimoy provides the narration), but a lot of their ships are expies of the Narada and the U.S.S. Vengeance.
  • In December 2013, Marvel, after having their licensing contracts with Activision expire, made Activision stop all digital and physical distribution of the Deadpool video game (only six months after release, even!) and all of their X-Men and non-movie Spider-Man gamesnote  and Capcom the same for the Marvel vs. Capcom series and its DLC, notably including Marvel vs. Capcom 3 DLC playable characters Jill Valentine (who's not a Marvel character) and Shuma-Gorath; since Capcom did not have the foresight to release those two on disc, their playable status in Tournament Play in now in jeopardy due to the Fighting Game Community's MO on non-universally available characters such as console exclusives and delisted DLC being to simply ban them in the name of match-up knowledge fairness.
  • Star Trek: 25th Anniversary had just a minor legal hurdle to overcome. The game featured the character Harry Mudd, including a close-up of his face for Enterprise viewscreen communications, which was of good likeness. At the time the game was made Paramount had a policy that whenever the physical likeness of a character from a Star Trek TV series was used in a licensed work, the original actor or their estate would have to give their consent. Unfortunately, the actor who played Harry Mudd passed away just as the game was ready to be released, and they had not secured his permission yet. Rather than delay the release of the game and wait for his inheritance to be settled and obtain permission from his estate, the developers simply changed the close-up into a shadowy silhouette of Mudd.
  • NBA Jam Extreme is noted for its surprise omission of Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal. This was because of contracts with those basketball players appearing in games from competing game studios, resulting in a conflict that could only be resolved by removing them from the game completely. Contractual obligations from the three acting in movies that year (Kazaam for O'Neal and Space Jam for Jordan and Barkley) might have also played a role.
  • This may also be the reason why none of Capcom's NES Disney games (including Mickey Mousecapadenote  and both Ducktales games) have been released on the Virtual Console service for Wii or Wii Unote  However, the original Castle of Illusion has seen a release as a limited time bonus with the purchase of the remake. Additionally, while a "remastered" version of the first Ducktales game has been released, Capcom have stated the deal was just for this game only, and not the original version.
  • The gameboy game Q-Billion is probably never going to get a release on Virtual Console. RSA has owned the Q-Billion copyright after it disbanded Seta and nowadays the copyright is lapsed. Nowadays it is the name of a capital organisation. The game however is pretty average so it is not a huge loss.

    Web Comics 
  • This infamous Penny Arcade strip showing Strawberry Shortcake In the Style of... American Mc Gees Alice had to be taken off the site due to a cease and desist letter the creators got from American Greetings.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, the "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates" had to be changed (even in past strips) to the "The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries" after receiving "the world's politest Cease and Desist letter" from FranklinCovey, the owners of the "Seven Habits..." trademark eight years after the fact. However, Howard Tayler claims he didn't mind seeing as he was looking for an excuse to change the name anyway so he could use the Maxims in The Merch.
  • Mike R. finally explained why Rusty and Co. spent several weeks down in December-January 2012-13. There was a danger of years-long lawsuit, but he and his attorney were able to prove that Rusty and most other elements are covered by OGL, public domain or parodies. Still, a few things did trespass Wizards of the Coast's product identity limitations. For example, Yuan-Tiffany the yuan-ti had to become Y.T. the lamia. His Kickstarter page still says "Rusty the Rust Monster - Plush Toy is the subject of an intellectual property dispute and currently unavailable. [...] Thanks for your patience." But the toys have already started shipping.

    Web Originals 

    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 TaleSpin. 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 Butt-Head 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 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 dealnote , thus making it unlikely to ever see a 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.
  • Until very recently, there was a contractual requirement that neither Wonder Woman nor any of her supporting characters could appear in any video production in which she was not one of the main characters. This prevented her from even appearing until Justice League despite the best efforts of the studio to get a guest episode in Superman, and Wonder Girl was out of both Teen Titans and the first season of Young Justice.
    • At one point, this was so bad that she couldn't appear in other shows in the DCAU, including crossovers WITH A SHOW THAT SHE WAS ON. Thus, she was the only Justice League founding member to never appear on Static Shock.
  • The Anvilicious Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue was hit with this, though not as originally expected — for a long time, it was believed that the show was never re-aired because the producers never got permission from Jim Davis to use Garfield in the show, and he threatened litigation if it ever aired again. However, Mark Evanier (head writer of Garfield and Friends) has debunked the rumor, and explained that the original plan which got the copyright holders to cooperate specified limited airings.
  • Veggie Tales' creator Phil Vischer says in "The Wonderful Wizard of Ha's" commentary note  that they got in trouble with New Line Cinema after their release of "Lord of the Beans".
  • This is the major reason why the TV special Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies may never get a home video release, since DreamWorks Animation and Warner Bros. are not too fond of each other when it comes to cooperating. The special is available on video sites such as YouTube, but are sourced from kinescope prints and thus are poor of quality.
  • Rugrats had an episode titled "Vacation" that was originally released on videocassette, then broadcast on TV before it mysteriously vanished, and failed to appear on any compilation DVDs. Depending on who you ask, either Nickelodeon was unable to regain clearance to show the song "Vacation" by The Go-Go's in the opening scene, or it could be a particular scene where Siegfried & Roy look-alikes are attacked by their white tigers (especially when you consider that a similar, real-life event happened six years after it was originally shown).
  • Pingu has suffered this several times when the series was remastered.
    • Originally, "Pingu Looks After the Egg" featured the song "Woodpeckers from Space" from the Dutch group Video Kids. When the entire series was remastered, HiT Entertainment could not get clearance for the song to appear again. As a result, the music was replaced by an instrumental version of David Hasselhoff's "Pingu Dance", which was used as the theme song beginning with season 4 and replaced the original intro in the remastered versions of seasons 1 and 2.
    • Likewise, "Ice Hockey" had a version of "Hand in Hand", the official song for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Again, HiT Entertainment could not get clearance for this song and replaced with a random orchestral score.
    • "Music Lessons", which introduced Pingu's grandfather, has a strange variation of this. Reportedly, the Pygos Group was sued by an unknown recording company after they discovered that Pygos did not get clearance to use the accordion music that Pingu's grandfather played while offering lessons to Pingu. Although it was released on VHS, the episode was briefly pulled for a while and not shown until it was remastered by HiT and the music was redone. The remastered version is the only version of the episode that is rerun or released on current home video releases.


Safe HarborShow BusinessScrewed by the Network
Schedule SlipCreativity LeashScrewed by the Network
Role Ending MisdemeanorReal Life Writes the PlotScrewed by the Network
Our Lawyers Advised This TropeThe Courtroom IndexWriting Around Trademarks
Scunthorpe ProblemWe Are Not Alone IndexSdrawkcab Name
Science Marches OnTriviaScrewed by the Network

alternative title(s): Cease And Desist
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