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God Does Not Own This World

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"There's no way we can go 'Hey! It's the 20th anniversary' cause we don't own the flick anymore... It's weird, my movie about angels is owned by the devil."
- Kevin Smith (talking about Dogma)

So the author of this fictional work is considered to be the ultimate authority of it. Maybe they are the creator, director or producer of the work. They had the initial idea of this work (or at least this version of it) and most ideas are theirs, not to mention that they are the final authority regarding Canon. They must own this work, right?

Except not. The main difficulty of creating a work is not always a creative issue. Very often the creator of a work is unable to produce their work the way they want without money. Other times, they want to use characters they don't own. The only way the author is able to produce their work, or using the characters they like but don't own, is by giving all the legal rights of their hard work to some big company in exchange for getting their work financed, or thanks to work for hire laws, the creator never actually owns their creation, everything creators do while working for a big company is instantly owned by the company.

While this removes all the production costs, it can backfire for the author for the following reasons:

  1. The author is subject to Executive Meddling and can't do anything about it, losing their absolute creative control of the work.
  2. If the work becomes successful thanks to their input, even if the company gains a fortune thanks to it, the author won't be able to become rich themselves or earn more money beyond their salary.
  3. The author won't be able to use their work independently without executive approval. And even if the author gets permission, they will most likely be obliged to pay royalties to use their own work/creations.
  4. The author's Word of God can be demoted to fanfiction, while the executives can hire someone else to change the work or "interpret it differently".
  5. If the company doesn't want the original author, they simply replace/fire them from the project.

On a related note, a creator who's the driving force behind a particular incarnation of a franchise, but was not involved in the original incarnation of same, won't have any of the rights to the franchise. This can be very painful for the author losing all their control of their work despite being the main creative force behind it and the ultimate authority of it. However, some fans may still consider them as "Word of God" in spite of this, and even hold them in higher regard.

This in general is more common in film, TV, and mainstream comic books than in publishing where authors do retain a good number of control and influence of any intellectual property they personally created. However, if a given author sells adaptation rights to a major studio, then issues of merchandising rights and other rights, and ancillaries, vary depending on the lawyers they can afford.

See also Death of the Author, a trope more about thought exercise (of the information that the author conveys, in and out of the work) rather than the situation behind the scenes as in this trope, although this is one of the ways that enables that trope.

Sometimes, a creator may try to Torch the Franchise and Run in response to this situation.

Not to be confused with I Do Not Own. Or with the beliefs of a Nay-Theist or Flat-Earth Atheist.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • One of the best-known examples in anime is Gundam; after working on the franchise constantly for 14 years, creator Yoshiyuki Tomino (suffering from severe Creator Breakdown at the time) sold the rights to the franchise to Sunrise before moving on to other projects. Sunrise would go on to produce various Alternate Universe shows: G, Wing, X, SEED, SEED Destiny, 00, AGE, Iron-Blooded Orphans, The Witch From Mercury, and so on. For years, legends persisted that Tomino absolutely despised what Gundam had become without him; in published interviews, he admitted that he was upset at first but mellowed out after realizing that he should be more supportive of up-and-coming directors. Eventually, Tomino gave his indirect blessing with ∀ Gundam, which is supposed to be the Grand Finale of the entire franchise and suggests that all of Gundam (both his and Sunrise's works) is part of a single, massive timeline.
  • Somewhat the case with Masaki Kajishima and Tenchi Muyo!. He is still the main creative force behind the main continuity (Tenchi Muyo Ryo-ohki and GXP) but he doesn't own the rights to it, so his other media forays don't count as canon (though some elements of them have been worked into canon over time) and his Word of God isn't absolute. He also has no control over the numerous alternate universe spinoffs.
  • For the first two movies, Rebuild of Evangelion was subject to this, with Hideaki Anno leaving Studio Gainax, founding Khara and eventually licensing his masterpiece from his old studio to return working on it. Somewhere around the end of 2014, however, Khara's Eva-related works stopped crediting the now near-vestigial Gainax, with all indications being that Khara - and by extension, Anno - bought the rights of the franchise.
  • Hiroyuki Imaishi left Gainax in 2011 to form his own studio, leaving Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann and Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt in Gainax's hands, even though the latter was Left Hanging on its final episode. Eventually, he, along with other ex-Gainax staff, released a questionably canon doujin that serves as a sequel to Panty & Stocking. Luckily, Trigger bought the rights to both shows sometime before 2021, and the much-desired second season of Panty & Stocking was announced by the studio at Anime Expo 2022.

    Comic Books 
  • This trope is particularly common in British and American mainstream comics, due to the way creators are treated by the industry. Historically, most comics work was considered "work for hire," meaning that the writers and artists who made the comics explicitly kept no copyright over the stories they worked on, even characters they specifically created. The company itself owns the rights to these characters and has control over who can write and draw their adventures.
  • DC Comics:
    • In comics history, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, co-creators of Superman, are poster boys for creators' rights movements. They sold the rights early on (for $65 each), but later fought tooth and nail just to get some recognition, and eventually became rallying figures for the wider comics community as they all sought to negotiate higher pay and better conditions. While the situation is far from ideal, it has improved a fair bit thanks to their efforts.
    • Even when Jack Kirby went to DC, after poor experiences at Marvel Comics, he wasn't particularly well-treated there. His Fourth World was a uniquely Kirby creation, but he was forced to explicitly tie it into the DC universe, ensuring that he didn't own the rights and could be terminated from his own books - which he eventually was.
    • According to a contract, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons were to receive full rights to Watchmen upon publication. The main proviso was that this would happen as soon as Watchmen went out of print which at the time was common and expected even for successful works. DC however, chose to continuously keep Watchmen in print, Moving the Goalposts and denying both Moore and Gibbons what they saw as their fair share. While Gibbons has been pragmatic and sought to roll with the punches, Moore took a hardline status, and cut himself off from working for the big two publications and denounced any and all adaptations, spin-offs and sequels.
    • No one would use Starman characters without at least giving James Robinson a heads-up.
  • Marvel Comics and their corporate owners (which have changed multiple times over the decades - as of 2023, it’s Disney), own all of its Marvel Universe characters and there have been many legal battles fought by the likes of Jack Kirby, Steve Gerber (creator of Howard the Duck) and even Stan Lee himself over compensation.
    • In the context of its time and place, Editor-In-Chief Stan Lee was a trailblazer in instituting full credits on each comic, listing not only the writer and penciller, but also the inker, the colorist, the sub-editors and the entire team. This innovation, inspired by EC Comics' output, has subsequently become standard operating procedure for all comics companies, and it also provided better pay for people occupying those posts, if not actual creative rights.
    • One of the major sticking points in determining who should receive credit for creating a character was the "Marvel Method" of scripting: Stan Lee would outline a rough idea or sketch, which artists then elaborated into full scripts which they broke down into the artwork, then returned to Stan who filled in the dialogue, captions, and other text (at times following the suggestions of the artists who left notes). Lee officially was credited as sole writer but in practice, the artists (Kirby, Lee, Romita Sr. and others) were all co-writers doing part of Lee's job, while Lee didn't do any of theirs. They were paid artist fees for their writing duties while not having any rights and privileges to their work, or access to original artwork.
    • Stan Lee himself, on account of his great fame, is often mistaken as the "owner" of Marvel Comics. In actual fact, Lee during his most active phase was Editor-In-Chief and then publisher at Marvel, but he never held an executive position there until he became "Chairman Emeritus" (a sinecure without official position and say). Lee pointed out that he didn't own any rights to any of his characters either and that he had to negotiate with Marvel to get income and royalties for his own contribution. Indeed, when Marvel was facing bankruptcy in The '90s, one of their moves to save money and cut corners was cancelling Lee's payments and "firing" him from Marvel. The optics of this decision was so badly received that it resulted in Lee becoming Chairman Emeritus.
    • Steve Ditko was unique, in that he was the only artist in the Silver Age era to actually negotiate and receive a writing credit (for plotting which he got from ASM #25 onwards) as well as Doctor Strange, but which he still felt wasn't enough. In 2021, the estates of Ditko and several other prominent artists filed notices of copyright termination against Disney for the ownership of Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, and many other classic characters. Ditko's estate in particular alleged that Ditko had created Spider-Man and Doctor Strange - and then had his work stolen by Stan Lee and Marvel, who filed a countersuit saying Ditko and the other artists had contributed to the characters on a "work for hire" basis so had not retained any rights to them.
    • Writers and artists following The '60s, when working at Marvel, unofficially followed a principle whereby they largely worked with existing characters and avoided when possible in creating entirely new characters which could become profitable. (One of the rare exceptions was Len Wein who, in this period, created the "All-New, All-Different" X-Men team which went on to become the most profitable property in American comics under the pen of Chris Claremont; in his later years, Wein would reveal that he had made more money from the appearances of Lucius Fox, a character he created while writing Batman comics in the 1980s, in the Christopher Nolan Batman movies than he has ever made for having created Wolverine.) Jack Kirby himself, near the end of his run at Marvel when he was plotting his defection to DC, started withholding concepts and creations (such as the New Gods) for which he wanted credit and rights. EIC Jim Shooter in The '80s negotiated a new settlement and program by which writers and artists got some royalties and payments for their contributions even when working-for-hire, driven and inspired by the creators' rights movement.
    • It wasn’t until 2014 that Jack Kirby’s estate and Marvel mended legal fences. His four children were offered a settlement the last business day before the Supreme Court was set to hear the case. The exact monetary amount of the settlement has never been revealed but the last minute nature of the agreement plus the fact that Marvel originated the lawsuit pointed to the Kirbys being the “winners” in the case. note  One aspect of the settlement that is known is that they agreed to put his name in the credits of any adaptation that was even somewhat inspired by his work.
    • When Shatterstar was revealed in Peter David's X-Factor (2006) to be bisexual, Rob Liefeld (who had created Shatterstar for X-Force) was very annoyed at the character being made "gay" and posted on Twitter that he couldn't wait to revert Shatterstar back to being an asexual "gladiator". Joe Quesada responded that Liefeld would have to get permission from the next Marvel editor-in-chief; two editors-in-chief later there is still no sign of Marvel changing it.
    • An aversion in the form of an unconfirmed rumor that Brian K. Vaughan, creator of Runaways, made Marvel Comics sign a contract forbidding them from killing, maiming or in any other way harming the character Molly, whom he based on his younger sister. Additional material in one of collected editions seems to confirms the Molly rumor.
    • Cullen Bunn co-created Mania/Andi Benton, a young teenager bonded to a clone of the Venom symbiote, for his Venom run, but almost all of the story ideas he pitched featuring her were subject to Executive Veto. Bunn was just as blindsided and upset as her other fans were when Mike Costa and Dan Slott abruptly depowered her in Venom Inc., a move Slott said happened due to Marvel's editorial decreeing there were too many heroic symbiotes at the time. While Bunn returned to write Andi's tie-ins for Absolute Carnage, he had a falling out with Marvel soon after and implied on Twitter that the straw that broke the camel's back was that he had pitched Scream: Curse of Carnage to Marvel and been pleasantly surprised when they greenlit it, only to be told that someone else would be writing it and that he could show himself to the door. Declan Shalvey, the artist who first illustrated Andi/Mania, was also displeased by how she was illustrated in Venom: Space Knight.
    • As they eventually left Marvel Comics, Millar and Bendis do not have any control of the Ultimate Marvel universe or its characters. In particular, Bendis was working for DC Comics by the time the film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (starred by his creation, Miles Morales) was released.
  • One of the reasons for founding Image Comics was that artists and writers working for Marvel and DC wanted to own their own properties, avoiding this very trope.
    • A bit ironic when one of the Image co-founders, Todd McFarlane, decided he owned characters Neil Gaiman created for one issue of Spawn, most notably Angela, the same way Marvel would own any character created for their comics. The legal battle over the rights lasted for years and ended with Gaiman coming out victorious. He then sold Angela to none other than Marvel Comics.
    • Image Comics demonstrated a disadvantage with this model. In the early days, the Image properties were part of a Shared Universe just like Marvel and DC do with their characters. Those shared universes already had big consistency problems even though Marvel and DC owned most of the characters in them. The problem became worse in this case when artists decided to leave Image Comics and take the characters they owned, making them unavailable in comics by Image, while the artists cannot use the Image characters when doing their comics in another studio.
  • In the case of Grendel, things got hairy for a period of time. The copyrights for the comic were owned jointly by the creator, Matt Wagner, and his publisher, Comico. When Comico filed for bankruptcy in 1989, the interim ownership claimed the character as a company asset and refused to let Wagner take the character elsewhere. Grendel: War Child was planned to be released during this period, but would not be published (by Dark Horse) until 1993. Dark Horse would not have the right to reprint the original series until the 2000s.
  • The Sandman (1989) is owned by DC Comics, not by writer Neil Gaiman. However, Gaiman still writes occasional stories for DC - and has made it clear that their working relationship will end if DC choose to continue Sandman without his consent. As of January 2023, DC have continued to honour Gaiman's wishes, and he's been consulted on all of their Sandman spin-offs.
    • One of the few appearances of a Sandman character in the main DC line after the original series was the Daniel version of Dream in an arc of JLA (1997). Gaiman reviewed the dialogue and thought it was pretty damn good. In particular, describing the Green Lantern Ring as a "wishing ring" is something he wishes he'd thought of himself.
    • Paul Cornell also ran his use of the Endless version of Death during "The Black Ring" arc by Gaiman and got approved.
    • Generally, the only one of the Endless that will be used without Gaiman's involvement is Destiny, the only member of the family not created by Gaiman. Destiny predated The Sandman (1989) by many years (and was host of one of DC's horror anthology comics) and was retconned into the Endless by Gaiman. His personality has stayed pretty consistent, so it's not seen as any problem.
  • 2000 AD
    • Pat Mills created a whole bunch of strips for 2000 AD, but owns none of them; however, due to his influence, it's very rare that anyone else is allowed to write any of them. Mills famously blocked the publication of an ABC Warriors strip by Alan Moore for decades, and also got pissy at Andy Diggle for commissioning a new Satanus series from Robbie Morrison, despite the fact that Mills had originally resurrected Satanus in story he wrote for Judge Dredd, for which he came up with the name and nothing else.
    • Another semi-exception exists in the case of Judge Dredd. It was originally conceived by John Wagner (writer) and Carlos Ezquerra (artist), but copyright and publication rights lie with Rebellion (at present). Plenty of other writers regularly write new material, but an unofficial understanding exists that only John Wagner is allowed to alter the status quo.
  • This was standard practice in comic strips until the 1980s and Bill Watterson's famous fight to prevent Calvin and Hobbes merchandise. Today, creators generally own all rights to their strips, or have a contract that reverts all rights back to them after a certain number of years.
  • The creators of W.I.T.C.H. — Elisabetta Gnone, Alessandro Barbucci, and Barbara Canepa — struggled to get Disney Italia to greenlight the series in the first place and found themselves losing creative control as soon as it became a surprise hit, with the series going on to be more lighter and softer than they intended. Gnone, the writer of the team, would leave Disney to pursue a career writing children's books, while artists Barbucci and Canepa would leave to form their own comic book studio after unsuccessfully suing over the rights for the series in 2004. Of additional note is Francesco Artibani, a writer who had helped Gnone conceptualize the first story arc. Artibani was given full writing duties after the other three were removed from the comic, but upon the failure of the lawsuit, would leave Disney out of solidarity after issue 37.
  • Alan Moore has a long history of disliking almost every adaptation of his work. Some of these adaptations are creator owned (From Hell, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), others are not (Watchmen, V for Vendetta), and others are characters that he co-created on licensed works (Swamp Thing) that Moore never considered his to start with (Constantine).
  • This is why it took so long for Groo the Wanderer to be published — Sergio Aragones did not want Groo to be owned by anyone else but him, but in the late '70s, the default assumption was that comics had to be "work for hire". It was only with Destroyer Duck and the advent of "creator-owned labels" that sprung up in the wake of Steve Gerber's protests over Marvel's ownership of Howard the Duck that Aragones found an imprint that he could feel comfortable publishing Groo with. (ironically, Groo's longest-running imprint was actually a subdivision of Marvel, their creator-owned "Epic" imprint).
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) became a rare example where this was not only averted, but fans sided with the big corporations instead of the individual creator. Ken Penders, who boasted one of the longest runs on the comic, would claim in the late 2000s that he owned multiple characters created for the comics. And Archie Comics lost the contracts that could prove that this wasn't the case. The end result was Archie effectively letting Penders keep his characters, even though he can't use the main Sonic characters that are still owned by Sega, and rebooted the comic universe, though Sega would ultimately revoke the license thanks to the whole debacle, with the comics restarting from scratch with the same creative team over at IDW. On Penders' end, the reason he even fought for character rights was because he'd wanted to use them in personal non-Sonic projects that still haven't come to fruition even a decade later.

    Films — Animation 
  • Scooby-Doo! and the Curse of the 13th Ghost, which is based on The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, does not have the involvement of series creators Tom Ruegger and Mitch Schauer.
  • Lilo & Stitch brain child Chris Sanders does not have any creative involvement in the sequels, TV series, or video games beyond voicing Stitch (plus one-shots Experiment 627 and Leroy). In fact, he has no involvement at all with the Stitch! anime and Stitch & Ai, where Ben Diskin replaces him as the voice of Stitch (and 627 in the former). The closest person to being a curator that the franchise has would actually be Lilo & Stitch: The Series executive producer and screenwriter Jess Winfield, who is the current voice of Stitch's In-Universe creator Dr. Jumba Jookiba.
  • Don Bluth never really owned the rights to any movie he made (save for perhaps Banjo the Woodpile Cat), resulting in both the sequelitis of his more profitable films, and the executive meddling of his films in the '90s (which were made Lighter and Softer and played Follow the Leader with Disney). Bluth still gets Mis-blamed for it.
  • Pixar originally didn't plan on making Toy Story 2, and only began to work on the film after Disney told the studio that they were planning on making a sequel to the original film, and would make it with or without them.note 
  • Disney owned the intellectual property rights of all of Pixar's franchises from Toy Story up to Cars, which was a major point of contention between Disney executives and Pixar's owner Steve Jobs; it was such a sticking point that when Disney bought Pixar in 2006, one of the main stipulations was that Disney would transfer those IP rights back to Pixar post-merger and allow them to control any future IP rights to franchises that they'd create. This was a level of autonomy not normally seen in Hollywood.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • A common occurrence in the decades prior to the 1980s was film studios being forced to sell off their older libraries of films to holding companies or television broadcasters in order to raise money to make new films. This was back before the days of home video and multimedia conglomerates, meaning the only way that a studio could make money off an older film was to re-release it into theaters (which usually did nothing but take up space in the ever-shrinking movie theater's schedules) and so from a business standpoint there wasn't much of a reason for the studios to hold onto them - and besides, unless it was a Walt Disney animated film or a particularly notable movie like Gone with the Wind, who would pay to see an old movie anyway when they could just watch a new one? Warner Bros. for example famously sold off the rights to their pre-1948 film and cartoon short library in 1958, only to get them back in 1996 when their parent company Time Warner purchased Turner Entertainment.
  • Happened to Gene Roddenberry with the Star Trek film series. After Star Trek: The Motion Picture went way over budget and past schedule, Paramount Pictures had Roddenberry Kicked Upstairs to "executive consultant", a position entitling him to make as many suggestions as he liked, and entitling everyone else to ignore these suggestions if they so pleased, and ignore him they did. But Tropes Are Not Bad. The films that followed are considered some of the best work in the Star Trek canon. When Star Trek returned to the small screen with Star Trek: The Next Generation, Roddenberry got to be in charge of that, though he continued to have no control over the Trek movies. During this time, Roddenberry dispensed some Word of God regarding what elements of the films he considered to be non-canon.
  • Marvel sold off the film rights to many of their biggest franchises to various movie studios in the 1990s and early 2000s in an effort to dig themselves out of bankruptcy. A massive wave of Marvel film adaptations followed over the next decade, probably the most high-profile being 20th Century Fox's X-Men Film Series, Sony Pictures' Spider-Man Trilogy and New Line Cinema's Blade Trilogy. When Marvel Studios began producing their own movies in the late 2000s, most of their biggest characters were unavailable for them to use... but what they did have was the entire original team line-up of The Avengers. These restrictions shaped the entire creative direction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for the first decade of its existence. Since Marvel's sale to Disney in 2009, many of those franchises have been reacquirednote  – probably the most significant example was when Disney bought 20th Century Fox in March 2019 and thus got the film rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four.
    • Sony Pictures still retains the film rights to Spider-Man, but Marvel Studios has been able to integrate Spider-Man into the MCU since 2016 via a limited agreement between Sony and Disney.note  Meanwhile, Sony is free to make non-MCU films of Spider-Man and related characters without Marvel Studios involvement, such as Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and the Venom films.
    • Some Marvel characters have had their film rights shared between different companies, if they are associated with more than one franchise, but with restrictions on what each company can do with the character. A current example is the Kingpin (Wilson Fisk): Sony can only use the character as a Spider-Man villain (as he was in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), while Disney can only use him as a Daredevil villain (as he was in Daredevil (2015)). Another past example was Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, who are associated with both the X-Men and The Avengers, and thus were shared between Fox and Marvel Studios – so two different versions of Quicksilver appeared in the X-Men Film Series and the MCU, played by different actors, and the X-Men movies could not refer to the Avengers while the MCU couldn't refer to him or Scarlet Witch as mutants.
    • Universal still retains the distribution rights to the Hulk, meaning they have the right of first refusal to distribute any Hulk movie. Notably, The Incredible Hulk in 2008 was the only MCU film distributed by Universal while the other pre-Avengers films were distributed by Paramount. Because Disney would always want to distribute their movies themselves (and thus keep all the profits), they have refused to make any more Hulk movies since they bought Marvel – meanwhile, the character has continued to appear in various other MCU movies such as The Avengers and Thor: Ragnarok. Because both existing Hulk movies have underperformed at the box office, Disney doesn't have incentive to try to compromise.
  • James Cameron did not have the rights to the Terminator franchise between Terminator 2 and Terminator: Dark Fate.
  • Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich made Stargate together, intended as the first of a trilogy, but after it became a moderate success Devlin abandoned the plans and sold the rights to MGM, which turned it into a TV series (plus sequel shows) without Devlin's and Emmerich's input. But now, after the end of Stargate Universe, both are working together working with MGM on a rebooted movie trilogy, ignoring the TV series completely.
  • When George Lucas wrote and directed the first Star Wars, he offered to take a much lower salary for directing in return for the for both merchandising rights and control over sequels. At the time, merchandising rights for any movie (let alone a low-budget sleeper movie, as Star Wars was anticipated to be) were considered worthless, so 20th Century Fox happily accepted. The Merch by itself wound up making Lucas a billionaire, while the sequels and the prequel trilogy were financed personally, Fox only distributed the films while only having ownership rights to the first film. Lucas only relinquished the franchise when selling Lucasfilm to Disney for four billion dollars, and it was only then any works would be made without his involvement. Disney managed to break the biggest exemption to full control over the franchise once they bought Fox in 2018, as previously any sales of the original film or complete box sets had to be made with cooperation between studios.
  • Ridley Scott — who left the Alien franchise after it was announced that there would be an Alien vs. Predator crossover — returned to the series lamenting how other directors had mishandled it, and vowing to assume full creative control over it. Alas for him, Fox has ultimate control over the franchise and has seen fit to veto or ignore some of his attempted Word of God statements.
    • Despite Scott using Prometheus and Alien: Covenant to de-canonize the AvP films, they still received mythology gags in The Predator.
    • Alien: Covenant was originally going to reveal that the Engineers had created the Xenomorphs and that David-8 had been trying to replicate their work, but late into development Scott thought it would be more interesting if David-8 was the sole creator of the Xenomorphs — scrapping all the scenes featuring the Engineer-made Xenomorphs and redesigning David's Xenomorphs to lack the biomechanical exoskeleton. This was very poorly received by fans, many of whom had expected the Engineer-made theory to be canonized; and Fox subsequently ignored it in Alien: The Roleplaying Game, instead going with the explanation that the Engineers had created the Xenomorphs and David had been trying to replicate their work.
  • Sylvester Stallone already stated that he doesn't own any share of the Rocky franchise, in which not only he played the role of the main character, but helped as a writer and director. He wished he could own some of the franchise but he signed away everything in exchange for getting the starring role.
  • Due to the religious controversy around Dogma the normal distributor for Kevin Smith's films, Miramax, didn't want it in their library so producer Harvey Weinstein bought the rights of the film directly and licensed it out to different companies for theatrical and home video releases. Those licenses eventually expired and ownership of the film remained with him personally. Smith had some interest in doing a sequel but had a falling out with Weinstein that made any attempt near impossible, and after the Weinstein scandal that created the #MeToo movement Smith just wanted to wash his hands of anything they did together.

  • Tying into the below-mentioned Tabletop Games, R.A. Salvatore doesn't own the rights to the stuff he's written based on Dungeons & Dragons. He tried to end The Legend of Drizzt, but backed down after being told that a different writer would continue the story. It's suspected by some that the series's recent decline in quality is an attempt to Torch the Franchise and Run, but another theory is that he's simply out of ideas (which, of course, would explain why he tried to end it in the first place.)
  • L J Smith was fired from writing The Vampire Diaries by the company that owns the rights, allegedly because she disagreed with them about who the heroine should be romantically paired with at the end. The company intends to get someone else in to write it the way they want.
  • A recurring/notable issue among authors in the Star Wars Legends Expanded Universe seems to be this, combined with Too Many Cooks Spoil the Soup.
    • Prominent Mandalorian writer Karen Traviss has expressed dislike of the Mandalorians' portrayal in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and has even stated that if she had the power, she'd do a Continuity Reboot to erase that portrayal out of existence. For the record, it was George Lucas' idea to depict them that way and there did end up being a long-term plan for this (reportedly for the Underworld live-action show that never came to be, but was later reused for Rebels and The Mandalorian)... seen in a Continuity Reboot that booted everything in the EU bar The Clone Wars out of existence. Though whether or not Traviss likes it now is unknown.
    • Timothy Zahn is aware of this trope and does find it interesting to see how other authors use his characters as he has said at DragonCon 2018, but he has also stated on the matter of Legacy of the Force that he doesn't like it when they kill off his characters (in this case, Mara Jade and Pellaeon), especially without telling him. On the other hand, he wasn't told anything about Thrawn's depiction in Rebels until episode production came to a wrap, meaning he had little say, but he has shown approval of their use of Thrawn, including writing half a dozen tie-in novels.
  • K. A. Applegate and Michael Grant have spoken several times about how they had a terrible agent, which resulted in Scholastic retaining all rights to Animorphs. Though he legally didn't have to, Erik Feig invited them to consult on the movie adaptation, but they eventually left in disgust due to not actually being listened to or involved in any decisions. This had led many fans to predict the movie will be terrible.
    • On a more positive note, Applegate and Grant revealed in December of 2021 that Scholastic had returned to them the rights to Everworld and Remnants after almost two decades of sitting on them and doing nothing. Whether this means an actual continuation for the two book lines (both of which were infamously Screwed by the Network) or just re-releases is not yet clear.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Dave Chappelle has mentioned he considered reviving or making a new tv show similar to Chappelle's Show after he famously walked away during the third season, but lost interest every time he is told it can't be NAMED anything like The Chappelle Show because Comedy Central owns the rights to his name, "Cause I signed the contract!"
  • George R. R. Martin's contributions to Game of Thrones dwindled after Season 4. He did not write any episode screenplays for Season 5-6 and all but openly stated that his involvement as a consultant on the series carries no decision-making power and is purely advisory, noting that HBO could decide to include an Alien Invasion and he wouldn't be able to stop them. That said, he seemingly regained a lot of creative control for the prequel series House of the Dragon, although as of July 2023 he has not written any episodes for that (or any other TV show he's been involved in since Game of Thrones).
  • Hanna is run not by the writer of the original screenplay (Seth Lochhead) or the director of the film (Joe Wright) but instead the screenwriter who revised Lochhead's screenplay (David Farr).
  • Happened with Terry Nation on Survivors. He envisaged a dark, action-adventure political thriller about the breakdown of social order; producer Terence Dudley wanted a far more optimistic and character-based series about rebuilding society. Early episodes about a lawless society and self-appointed dictators carving up the country gave way to the heroes having a safe, self-sufficient base camp where external threats were fairly easily repelled. Nation finally quit after the first season when his ideas were ignored and his intended lead couple Abby Grant and Jimmy Garland were dropped to make self-sufficiency expert Charles Vaughan, created by Dudley's preferred main writer Jack Ronder, the lead character, with Nation writing a novel showing where he wanted the storyline to go instead. The third season, with Martin Worth as head writer, returned the sense of lawlessness but its endings of the heroes setting up a benevolent central government and restoring electrical power was far from what Nation originally intended.
  • Titus is based on the comedy special "Norman Rockwell is Bleeding" by comic Christopher Titus, which in turn is based closely on his own life to the point his family members had to sign wavers for the series. The show was canceled at the end of the third season, following a big Cliffhanger, due to Titus' contentious attitude with the network. Years later, still close with the cast and crew, he sought to make a continuation of the series through crowdfunding but FOX refused to let him, essentially meaning he can't continue the series based on his own life.

  • In 2008 Stratovarius went through a long period of silence before main songwriter Timo Tolkki announced that the band had officially broken up, citing internal tensions within the band. The rest of the band, however, weren't ready to break up, and so Tolkki handed the rights to the remaining members and left for good.

    Mythology And Religion 

    Puppet Shows 
  • The Jim Henson Company, whose namesake Jim Henson created Sesame Street and The Muppets, does not own the rights to either of those franchises: they sold their 50% stake in Sesame Street to the Children's Television Workshop in 2000, and The Muppets to Disney in 2004. However, they are contracted by both companies to make new puppets and perform the characters in various media.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons:
    • Dungeons & Dragons hasn't been owned by its original creators since Gary Gygax had control of TSR wrested from him in the mid-1980s. Strangely enough, despite being the Trope Codifier for the entire RPG concept, Gygax has had very little effect on advancing the game's canon since it was first created. He created the original Greyhawk setting but was involved very little with it afterwards before eventually leaving the company because of massive Executive Meddling. Very few gamers would actively prefer Gygax's game mechanics to what is produced today, though there is a certain flavor in classic adventures like Temple of Elemental Evil and the Tomb of Horrors made during his tenure that makes for fun throwbacks.
    • Dave Arneson, the other half of the creative team behind Dungeons & Dragons, got more than a little dicked over in regards to the game himself. Arneson and Gygax worked on the original game together, based on Arneson's personally-designed game, Blackmoor, which became the namesake of Supplement 2: Blackmoor (which Arneson himself wrote). Eventually, a second version of the game called Basic Dungeons & Dragons came out, which effectively was OD&D with most of the Greyhawk and Blackmoor rules added together in one single rules set. Arneson left TSR relatively soon after, however, and was dealt a real gut-check when Gygax's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons came out (which he hadn't known about). Legal battles occurred throughout the '80s over the rights to D&D, with Arneson, and Gygax & TSR finally settling out of court, though Arneson wasn't awarded royalties for AD&D, as AD&D was ruled a radically-different product from Original and Basic D&D. Though Basic D&D existed, as a whole, for longer than any other version of D&D (effectively from 1977 to 1999), Advanced Dungeons & Dragons was far-and-away the more-popular of the two games. Coupled with the fact that Gygax was with TSR for longer and produced much more material for the game (including infamous modules like the Tomb of Horrors), most modern gamers know of Gygax as the sole Father of D&D, with only diehard enthusiasts or game historians knowing Arneson's fairly-tragic yet important role in the story.
    • Likewise, Ed Greenwood had originally created the Forgotten Realms setting through a series of articles published in TSR's Dragon magazine in the late '80s. TSR eventually bought the rights to the setting outright, publishing it in a comprehensive campaign boxed set. Since then, it had been a playground for authors like R.A. Salvatore to publish mostly original novels based in the setting's backdrop, almost turning it into an Expanded Universe. As for the setting itself, Greenwood continued to have some gradually decreasing input, or at least the right to complain, all the way until the release of 4th Edition, where the Spellplague and other interdimensional weirdness caused The End of the World as We Know It against his explicit objections.
    • Dragonlance is currently owned by Wizards of the Coast, and not by Tracy Hickman, Margaret Weis, or Jeff Grubb, all three of whom (among many) who contributed greatly to the setting.
    • Eberron has been owned by Wizards Of The Coast right from it's initial publication. That said, Keith Baker has retained a good relationship with the company, who have yet to bypass him in any major decisions about the setting.
  • The rights to Traveller are almost all owned by its original creator Marc Miller, and he has made nearly all of the material from the various editions available in .pdf file format from his current holding company, Far Future Enterprises. There are two notable exceptions, however:
    • The licensed materials produced by Digest Group Publications. They produced a magazine and high-quality supplements and adventures for the second edition of the game - MegaTraveller - under license. When DGP closed shop in the mid-nineties a fan bought the rights to all of their material, and he and Marc Miller have never agreed on a price to allow them to be reprinted or issued as .pdfs along with the rest of the MegaTraveller material.
    • The other exception is the two Mongoose versions of the game. That is simply because it's an active license - Mongoose continues to produce new material for its version of Traveller. If they ever stop the license will revert to Miller.

    Video Games 
  • Bungie Studios, the creators of the Halo franchise. When they were bought by Microsoft, all the legal rights of Halo became owned by Microsoft. This is despite the fact that Bungie was the ultimate authority of the franchise, creating the Universe Bible and all the important elements of the franchise itself. Bungie later became independent again, and while all their current work belongs to themselves, Halo is still Microsoft property. By all accounts, this is a rare amicable example, as Bungie decided on their own that they had definitively wrapped up the franchise for themselves, and wanted to work on something different after 10 years of Halo. On their end, Microsoft created a new studio called 343 Industries (named after one of Halo's main characters), who are now the ones in charge of the Halo property. It should be noted that 343i has a number of former Bungie employees in its employ, alongside those who worked with the late Pandemic Studios. That means that while Bungie as a studio may no longer be involved with the franchise, many of the mainstays of 343 are people who have years of Halo development experience anyway.
  • It's happened several times to Monolith Productions:
    • All rights to the Blood videogames and their source code are still under Atari, and until 2019, they had consistently stopped all attempts at releasing the source code, remaking the games, or making sequels (including simply refusing to let the original developers make an Updated Re-release, then demanding an exorbitant price for another developer to buy the rights).
    • The No One Lives Forever series was probably hit the hardest by this, as the rights are in a tangled, confusing mess involving three separate companies (Activision, Fox, and Warner Bros.). Worse, it predates any of their digital archives for what they own, so actually confirming who owns what would be more expensive than any of them think it would be worth - but they're all perfectly happy to threaten legal action regardless if anyone so much as considers even rereleasing the game on or something.
    • It happened again with the F.E.A.R. series, reaching the point where the original publisher, Vivendi, made expansion-pack sequels to the first game, while Monolith had to rename their own canon sequel for legal purposes. When they got the F.E.A.R. name back due to their new publisher (the aforementioned Warner Bros.) buying the rights to it, they immediately put those expansions into Canon Discontinuity.
  • IO Interactive's development of Hitman (2016) was a very messy, somewhat confusing one. While it received rave critical success, it was suddenly reported in May 2017 that Square Enix decided to abruptly cut all business ties with IOI, with the main purported reason being that the game had underperformed commercially, with many citing the biggest factor being the game's episodic format. In a surprising twist for this scenario, and notable defiance of this trope, IOI was allowed to keep the rights to the Hitman franchise, something almost entirely unheard of in a developer-publisher relationship of this sort, allowing them to independently develop and publish future Hitman games. With the release of Hitman 2 and Hitman 3 (effectively the future "seasons" that would've been DLC of the 2016 game), fully completing their intended World of Assassination Trilogy, as well as reports of increasingly solid financial returns, it seems that IOI actually came out the other end fairly well.
  • This happened to Al Lowe when the post-Williams Sierra sold the Leisure Suit Larry licence to Codemasters who decided to develop a couple of games in the series without consulting him. Lowe has stated that he personally considers said games to be non-canon and famously commented that seeing them in-action was like receiving a ransom video from your son's kidnappers:
    "On one hand, you're glad he's still alive, but on the other, my God, look what they've done to him!"
  • This happened to Toys for Bob with Star Control 3, although unusually for this circumstance, Toys for Bob do retain the rights to the setting itself, just not the right to create Star Control branded games.
  • This happened to Toby Gard with Tomb Raider when he objected to making Lara Croft bustier and ended up leaving during the development of Tomb Raider II. He came back as a consultant after The Angel of Darkness tanked, but Eidos Interactive (and its parent company Square Enix) still holds the rights to Lara.
  • This is a big aspect of the fiasco involved with the Call of Duty series and the fighting between Treyarch and Infinity Ward over proper royalties.
  • Keiji Inafune wanted to the Mega Man X series to end at X5, and indeed the end of that game suggests a solid conclusion to the X story arc. But then Capcom, insistent on milking the cash cow for all that it was worth, proceeded to make X6 without Inafune's involvement, thus explaining why much of the backstory of the Zero series only makes sense if you ignore all of the X games past X5. It should be noted that Inafune himself was not the creator of the original Mega Man games. Akira Kitamura, who was the lead game designer for the first two games on the NES, quit the series during the development of the third game to form an independent company named Takeru, which developed the cult Famicom/NES classics Cocoron and Little Samson.
  • Kingdom Hearts: While the series is often considered to be a Square Enix series with Disney characters, Tetsuya Nomura has made clear that it's still owned by Disney and that all the Original Generation characters qualify as Disney characters, which can be seen in the fact that merchandise for said original characters exist that is only licensed by Disney and not by Square. That said, when Sora got added to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Disney's name was added to the copyright list on the title screen. In other words, Sora is a Disney rep and not a Square Enix rep.
  • Every Fire Emblem game since the GBA entries had been developed by Intelligent Systems without the involvement of original creator Shozo Kaga, who quit the company after Fire Emblem: Thracia 776 and went on to work on his Fire Emblem clone for the PlayStation titled TearRing Saga. The similarities between the early Fire Emblem games and Tear Ring Saga, which included its working title of Emblem Saga and the involvement of Thracia 776 character designer Mayumi Hirota, led to Nintendo suing Kaga for copyright infringement, although Kaga won the case.
  • Hideki Kamiya has expressed regrets that he never got to develop his planned sequel to Ōkami after Capcom announced Ōkamiden for the Nintendo DS, which the company produced after Kamiya's departure. Likewise, the company started development of Devil May Cry 2 without Kamiya's knowledge when he was just finishing working on localizing the original game for the Western market, nor has he had any involvement with the series since and has even admitted that he's only the creator of the first game, not the series as a whole.
  • During the early years of the Metal Gear series, Hideo Kojima didn't have much name recognition and thus, had no control over what Konami did with the franchise. As a result, Konami made the NES version of the original Metal Gear, as well as its sequel Snake's Revenge without Kojima's involvement. After the success of Metal Gear Solid elevated Kojima's name and status within the industry, every game he directed from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty to Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes was released with the tagline "A Hideo Kojima Game" on the cover, while spin-off works such as Metal Gear Ac!d and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, while not directed by Kojima, were still made with his acknowledgement. This went full circle with Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain marking not only the end of Kojima's involvement in the series, and the end of his ties with Konami altogether, but also the use of his name to promote the brand. After Konami announced Metal Gear Survive a year after Kojima's departure, Kojima made it no secret that he wasn't involved in its conceptualisation or development:
    Kojima: I'm not involved with the development of Metal Gear Survive. Metal Gear is about political conflict and espionage, it would never have zombies.
  • Yasumi Matsuno:
    • Matsuno is responsible for the entire Ivalice concept and developed the majority of games taking place in the setting... but stepped down from his position at Square Enix during the production of Final Fantasy XII and lost what say he once had with regards to the setting. The biggest point of contention is the status of Vagrant Story — Matsuno says it was never part of the Ivalice setting and references between Ivalice games and Vagrant Story were just in-jokes. Square Enix says it's the canonical end of the setting's timeline.
    • Prior to joining Square, Matsuno directed Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen and Tactics Ogre on the Super Famicom, but then left Quest to work on Final Fantasy Tactics. As a result, Quest went on to continue the Ogre Battle series without him, resulting in the development of the third and final mainline entry, Ogre Battle 64, as well as two handheld side-stories Prince of Zenobia for the Neo Geo Pocket Color and Knight of Lodis for the GBA. In later years, Square Enix would acquire all of Quest's assets and Matsuno would briefly return to the franchise to supervise the PSP port of Tactics Ogre in 2010, but otherwise doesn't seem to have any intention of reviving the IP beyond catalog releases of the original titles.
  • The first three Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon games on the PlayStation 1 were created under license for Universal Interactive Studios, who would also own the rights to the series and characters. Once they were completed (and Naughty Dog made a fourth, Crash Team Racing), both Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games wanted to make their next games with Sony Computer Entertainment directly, but that meant leaving Crash and Spyro behind with Universal. Many fans to this day think that they sold the rights to Universal, when Universal had always owned them to begin with. After a series of mergers, they both became the properties of Activision.
  • Yoshihisa Kishimoto, creator of the Double Dragon series, lamented over how the series was handled by various licensees, specifically U.S. publisher Tradewest, resulting in a lack of consistency in later games and spin-off works that were produced without Technos Japan's direct involvement. He particularly disowns the 1994 live-action version starring Scott Wolf and Mark Dacascos, seeing it as a blatant cash-grab that has nothing to do with the original game except the name, and even takes a few potshots at the comic book and animated series, which turned the Lee brothers into ninja-like costumed crusaders.
  • Scott Cawthon retired from the Five Nights at Freddy's franchise in 2021, partially to spend more time with his family and partially to resolve a scandal revolving around his political donations. Despite this, new games and merchandise are still being released, with Five Nights at Freddy's: Security Breach being released by Steel Wool Studios at the tail end of the same year Cawthon retired.
  • Even though Masahiro Sakurai retired from HAL Laboratory in 2003, the Kirby series that he created is still going on strong, with at least two different games coming out on each post-GameCube console. Even before Sakurai's retirement, a good number of Kirby games were made without his supervision, mainly spinoff titles and the three Kirby games directed by Shinichi Shimomura.
  • Heretic and its sequels Hexen: Beyond Heretic, Hexen II, and Heretic II. In 2009, id Software (who published the first three games and still hold the rights to them) was bought by ZeniMax Media, forcing them to cut all ties with the series' Activision-owned developer Raven Software. Ten years later, the staff of Human Head Studios (made up of former Raven Software employees, including the original team that worked on Heretic and Hexen) joined ZeniMax Media as the newly-formed subsidiary Roundhouse Studios. Despite having both the original publisher and the original developers that made these games, ZeniMax will not be able to revive the series, nor do anything with Heretic II or the Portal of Praevus expansion of Hexen II since all of these still belong to Activision. This could change though, since ZeniMax's parent company Xbox Game Studios announced they were acquiring Activision Blizzard in January 2022, making it possible that the series will be revisited after the acquistion is complete.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • The reason the theme song from the original game is seldom heard is because Sega does not own it. It's owned by Dreams Come True, the band that originally composed it. The development team of Sonic Spinball didn't know this and originally used the theme in the game. They were forced to come up with a new theme at the last minute when the legal situation was explained to them.
    • Sega of Japan and Sega of America both have creative control over how Sonic is portrayed, meaning that throughout the '90s, the Sonic franchise was often radically changed in the West from how it was originally conceived in Japan. Most notably, Dr. Eggman was renamed Dr. Robotnik in America, which required Sonic Team to make "Robotnik" the character's real name and "Eggman" an Appropriated Appellation.
    • Sega often neglects to establish creative ownership when they license Sonic to be adapted into shows, films and comics, meaning they do not own any concepts introduced in them. For example, despite Sonic X utilizing the cast and concepts of the franchise, as well as adapting the plots from the Adventure games, Sega does not own any of the characters or plots created for the series and cannot use or reference them in any other Sonic product. The only Canon Foreigners Sega does own are those created for Sonic the Hedgehog (IDW), hence why they're allowed to cameo in other media.
    • The comics went through an incident where an individual artist managed to secure the rights of multiple characters and fans were not amused, see above.
  • Puyo Puyo went through a legal nightmare after the bankruptcy of Compile, the original owners and creators of both Puyo Puyo and Madou Monogatati, which were separate franchises due to the games very different genres but took place in the same universe and featured the same characters. SEGA had been loaned the rights to Puyo Puyo and kept them after Compile's closure, but did not buy Madou Monogatari, which was purchased by D4. Thus no Puyo Puyo games can be made in the same world as the original gamesnote  and no Madou Monogatari games can be made using the characters from the originals. Moo Nitani has not been involved with either SEGA or D4's games since, instead working on another puzzle game entirely.
  • The Elder Scrolls:
    • Programmer Julian LeFay was a instrumental member of Bethesda back in the late '80s and early '90s, but his biggest contribution to the company was probably playing a central role in creating the series as he spearhead the development of both The Elder Scrolls: Arena and The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall as well as the spin-off game, Battlespire, earning him the affectionate nickname "The Father of the Elder Scrolls". But at the time of the third main installment in the series, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, LeFay was not picked as a part of the initial development team for the game, something that evidently disappointed him greatly and, combined with concerns over the company's changing culture, prompted him to resign from Bethesda, citing Creative Differences. At the personal request of Christopher Weaver, the founder of Bethesda and his personal friend, LeFay eventually did some consulting work on Morrowind, but it was only tangential and he has not been involved with any Elder Scroll title since.
    • Designer and writer Ted Peterson also played a large role in creating the series, but like LeFay, he left Bethesda before the release of Morrowind. Peterson managed to hang a little longer than LeFay though, in terms of creative influence on the series, since Bethesda hired him on as a freelance writer up until The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, but he hasn't contributed to the series since.
  • While nothing has ever been confirmed, multiple rumors and reports spanning several years that the full rights to Cave Story is no longer in the hands of its original creator, Studio Pixel, with claims that they were being taken advantage of by publisher Nicalis when it came to the contract they signed and the latter abusing due to the language barrier between the two of them. Nicalis has never clarified one way or the other, but not helping their case is when they tweeted a celebration of Cave Story's 15th anniversary and hid replies accusing them of conning Studio Pixel rather than clearing the air. A report in 2019 of the publisher mistreating their employees and clients also didn't help their image. It's no surprise people have very little reason to not believe in the rumors and reports.
  • Seiichi Ishii, the original director and lead designer of the Tekken series, left Namco shortly after finishing Tekken 2 and has not been involved with the series since then.
  • The first two Tenchu games on the original PlayStation were developed by a company called Acquire. Originally, the IP belonged to Sony Music Entertainment (not Sony Computer Entertainment as it is mistakenly assumed). It was then sold off to Activision for the making of the second game. However, Activision would go on to produce the third game, Tenchu: The Wrath of Heaven on the PS2, without Acquire's involvement before selling off the IP to FromSoftware, forcing Acquire to make their own Spiritual Successor to Tenchu titled Shinobido. After several games in the series made by other developers, Acquire eventually came back to the franchise with Tenchu: Shadow Assassins on the Wii and PSP, which ended up being the final game in the series.
  • Devil Engine's Troubled Production can be attributed to this trope:
    • Shortly before the Expansion Pack, Devil Engine Ignition was to be released, Dangen Entertainment took rights to the game away from Protoculture Games, preventing them from releasing Ignition. Protoculture also was not getting any money from the game's sales.
    • Once rights reverted back to Protoculture, another issue popped up: Only Sinoc, the lead developer was getting any money from sales of the game, with the artistic side of the staff (artist Thomas Bailey and composer Joseph Bailey) still not receiving any of the revenue. The Baileys also revealed that Devil Engine is being sold without their consent.
  • Arika has been unable to sell or release Tetris: The Grand Master games since 2006; the last "proper" TGM game was Tetris: The Grand Master 3 in 2005, with the 2006 Tetris: The Grand Master ACE being stripped of a lot of the iconic TGM mechanics due to The Tetris Company's growing control over the Tetris brand and guidelines dictating what a Tetris game must have, with TGM violating many of those guidelines. A fourth TGM game was to be released in 2010, suggesting that the TTC issues were somehow worked out but cancelled for reasons unknown, with the most common theories being that Sega was to publish the game but they were already releasing Giant Tetris within the same year and they did not want to publish two arcade Tetris games within the same year, so they decided to just nix TGM4.
  • The Dragon Quest franchise has a history of having soundtracks composed by Koichi Sugiyama since the first game, who avoided this by being the owner of his compositions. However, Sugiyama had a controversial history of not giving Square Enix enough creative liberty to use his music the way they wanted, and that led to many games and localized versions having inferior, MIDI soundtracks, apparently because Sugiyama wanted to profit on concert tickets and record sales while leaving the actual games with low-quality synthetized music.
  • Pac-Man has a strange case: due to some complex behind-the-scenes legal issues, Bandai Namco Entertainment owns the rights to the characters of Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Baby, and other members of Pac's supporting cast, but not their games and designs, which were initially created by Bally Midway and are currently owned by AtGames. Because of this, later Pac-Man games and artwork (and modern rereleases of older games they appear in, like the Pac-Man Museum + and Arcade Archives versions of Pac-Land) give these characters drastic redesigns so Bandai Namco can avoid paying AtGames royalties every time. Conversely, AtGames can rerelease the original games with the original designs as much as they want, but can't make any new games featuring the characters.
  • CyberConnect2:
    • Within context of the Little Tail Bronx series, this is in full effect in regards to Tail Concerto and Solatorobo: Red the Hunter, as despite CyberConnect2 still having a good working relationship with Bandai Namco Entertainment, they are barred from doing anything with those two games without Bandai Namco's explicit approval, which is really bad considering both of them are Acclaimed Flops. This is one of the primary reasons why CyberConnect2 had to resort to self-publishing Fuga: Melodies of Steel and why it was envisioned as a distant Prequel, as they wanted to continue building upon the series' lore and figured it was easier to cut the middle man out rather than fight for a greenlight from Bandai Namco like they did with Solatorobo.
    • The .hack is also an original creation of CyberConnect2, but much like with Little Tail Bronx, the license is owned by Bandai Banco Entertainment, meaning they get final say on what to do with the franchise (this extends to other adaptations, such as anime, manga, or light novels). The Vice President of CyberConnect2 even told fans that if they want to see the series return with a possible remaster or remake of the R1 quadrilogy, then they have to write to Bandai Namco showing interest.

    Visual Novels 
  • This was the unfortunate reality for Takeshi Masada and his Shinza Bansho Series. Even though he is the heart and soul of the series, the rights belong to Light, the publishing company that used to employ him. And when the parent company of Light, Greenwood, closed its doors and Masada and his crew was let go of, he of course ended up severely limited in what ways he could work on the series. This means that even though he continues work on series with the light novel Avesta of Black and White, which he himself owns as it was funded thanks to dedicated fans, he is unable to continue to support the novels he made while working for Light.

    Web Original 
  • Extra Credits kickstarted with Daniel Floyd as the narrator, James Portnow as the writer, and Allison Theus as the artist. As of October 20, 2019, all three of them had left the show, having been gradually replaced by a new team of showrunners who promptly continued without their input.

    Western Animation 
  • Lauren Faust's control over My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic decreased over time, and she eventually left the show entirely by the end of Season 2, putting the show into the hands of new showrunners: in particular, writer Meghan McCarthy and director Jim Miller. Certain purist fans claim that her original ideas still remain as indisputable Word of God, despite the show going on to run for nine seasons and frequently contradicting her, and even she saying that what she says shouldn't be taken as fact as the new showrunners may disagree. It should also be noted, despite how this same group of fans tend to act, she wasn't the creator of the franchise but rather someone commissioned by Hasbro to "breathe new life" into an already established brand.
  • While Felix the Cat was created by Otto Messmer, he never owned the rights to his own creation, and was never once recognized as the creator until very late in his life, with Felix being considered and marketed as Pat Sullivan's character—and even though Pat Sullivan claimed before his death that Otto is the owner of Felix, Sullivan's estate secured the rights to the character while Otto worked on the comics. Eventually, Otto's assistant and friend Joe Oriolo would inherit the franchise and later continued by his son, Don Oriolo, and the franchise today is owned by DreamWorks Animation since 2014 and then by NBCUniversal since 2016 when they bought out DreamWorks Animation.
  • Despite being the creator of Gargoyles, Greg Weisman doesn't own any of the stuff he made. Disney owns all of it. First he, along with all his team, were replaced by other crew. When his show got cancelled, he tried to continue it via comic books, but was unable to pay the high royalties to Disney.
  • After Sam Raimi and the main cast of the series left Spider-Man 4 and it was becoming clear that Sony was not going to make the 2011 deadline to release a new Spider-Man film (and by missing it would lose the Spider-Man film rights entirely), Disney offered to give Sony time to regroup and extend the deadline to 2012 in exchange for the Spider-Man television rights. Sony agreed, and it resulted in The Spectacular Spider-Man getting axed.
  • Regardless of whether you believe John Kricfalusi was fired from it for constantly conflicting with Nickelodeon BS&P or repeated failure to meet deadlines, The Ren & Stimpy Show is likely the best example to argue that sometimes, this might be a good thing. Bob Camp and much of the original team from the first two seasons would stay with Nick to work on Ren & Stimpy, which created major schisms between former animator friends that last to this day. John K. was rehired to work on Ren & Stimpy "Adult Party Cartoon" but that series was critically panned and Billy West refused to reprise his role as Stimpy due to his grudge with him. Years later, John K. received sexual harrassment allegations involving minors, sinking his career for good. While fans agree that the original series declined in quality after the creator left, the consensus is that John K. deserved to be fired from his own creation. A reboot of Ren & Stimpy is currently in development for Comedy Central, and it has been confirmed that John K. will not be involved in any way and he is not getting any money from it.
  • Of all people, it happened to Walt Disney himself. In 1928, he lost the rights to his first hit character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit after contract negotiations broke down with his distributor Universal Studios, who proceeded to sign away most of his animators to a new in-house studio under the control of his former boss Charles Mintz. Disney was so shaken by the incident that he vowed to never lose the rights to any of his characters again. Disney would eventually regain the rights to Oswald in 2006, averting this.
  • The banner atop the blog of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird makes it clear that the franchise is owned by Viacom, who made a new cartoon in 2012 and a new movie in 2014. Laird's company, Mirage, still does the original comics every now and then as per a stipulation in the sale agreement. He has stated that issues of Mirage canonicity are only his opinions, as Viacom now has the authority to determine canon. It should be noted that unlike other examples where the creator never owned his creation or was screwed over, Peter Laird owned his creation for decades until he sold it to Viacom on his own will.
  • Man of Action Studios created the original Ben 10 show. It has been repeatedly stated by them and others that they have nothing to do with the three sequels, as those shows had entirely different creative teams: Dwayne McDuffie for Alien Force and Ultimate Alien and Matt Youngberg for Omniverse. Even then, they were mostly on writing duties in regards to the original series, due to the inexperience they had with animation production at the time. They only gained full creative control with the franchise reboot, Ben 10 (2016).
  • Per his Twitter account, Craig McCracken, creator of The Powerpuff Girls (1998), confirmed that Cartoon Network owns the rights to the show, and is not involved with the anime remake or the 2016 remake.
  • The creator of Clarence, Skyler Page, was removed from the show during its first season due to sexual harassment of female crew members, as well as worsening psychotic episodes as a result of his bipolar disorder. The series continued under the guidance of storyboarder Nelson Boles, and later Stephen P. Neary. Likewise, he was replaced as the voice of the title character by head writer Spencer Rothbell.
  • Similar to John K. above, Chris Savino was terminated from Nickelodeon due to sexual harassment of female crew members, leaving The Loud House during production of the show's third season, with story editor Michael Rubiner taking over as executive producer.
  • When The Boondocks was adapted for television, its creator Aaron McGruder sold all the legal rights to Sony Pictures Television. After three seasons, McGruder left the show due to a contractual dispute with Sony, so a fourth (and final) season was produced without any of his involvement. Season 4 was ill-received by most fans and critics.
  • Due to Chris Nee leaving Vampirina to work for Netflix, Chelsea Beyl takes over as showrunner in season 3.
  • Animaniacs (2020) was developed without any involvement from original series creator Tom Reugger due to Warner Bros. owning the rights. In fact, Reugger publicly stated his displeasure at not being involved with the reboot.
  • Justin Roiland, the co-creator of Rick and Morty, was fired from Adult Swim due to accusations of domestic violence and grooming, Roiland was not just the co-creator and a writer, but also a voice actor that voiced the titular duo and many other characters in the show, the characters will have to be recasted, Roiland was also removed from the company Squanch Games, developer of High on Life, which he is the co-founder.