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God Does Not Own This World

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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.


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 the Alternate Universe shows: G, Wing, X, SEED, SEED Destiny, 00 and AGE). 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) are 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.

    Comic Books 
  • 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, for each of them), 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.
  • Marvel Comics, or more precisely their corporate owners (which has changed multiple times over the decades but is presently The Walt Disney Company), owns all of its 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.
    • The problem beings due to "the Marvel Method" by which Stan Lee would outline a rough idea or sketch which artists then elaborated into full scripts which they broke down into the artwork and 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. In the case of Kirby, his four children would eventually reach a settlement with Disney/Marvel in 2014 for undisclosed terms just days before the Supreme Court was set to hear the case.
    • 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. He famously left Marvel for reasons that nobody is sure of but which most see as stemming from a clash of egos with Stan Lee and with Marvel's corporate owners including Martin Goodman and others.
    • 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) that he wanted credit and rights for. EIC Jim Shooter in The '80s actually negotiated a new settlement and program by which writers and artists even when working-for-hire got some royalties and payments for their contributions, driven and inspired by the creators' rights movement.
    • 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 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.
    • It wasn’t until 2014 that 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.
  • 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. Ongoing legal battle over the rights lasted years and ended with Gaiman coming out victorious. He would then take Angela and sold her to none other than Marvel Comics.
    • Image Comics showed a disavantage in this model, in the early days, the Image properties were part of a Shared Universe just like Marvel and DC do with their characters, but those 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 away the characters they owned, making them unavailable in comics by Image while the artists cannot use the Image characters while doing their comics in another studio.
  • In the case of Comic Book/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.
  • For The Sandman there is an interesting semi-exception in a medium (American comics) where it is very common: DC Comics own the work, and can use characters from it without consulting Neil Gaiman in any way... but it wouldn't occur to anyone currently working there to do so, mostly because Gaiman's portrayal of them is so iconic that any appearance by a Sandman character written by anyone else (or at least anyone who isn't Jill Thompson, anyway) would be considered Canon Discontinuity at best. Gaiman himself is very savvy and has good relations with DC Brass and he does have considerable rights and say on the direction of The Sandman.
    • To date, due to a reluctance to include characters from the Vertigo Comics line in the 'mainstream' DC universe, the only appearance of a Sandman character in the main DC line since the original series concluded was the Daniel version of Dream. They had no need to ask permission but at least gave the courtesy of a heads-up to Gaiman, who looked the dialogue over and thought it was pretty damn good. A reference to the Green Lantern Ring as a "wishing ring" is one he wishes he 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 is used without Gaiman's permission is Destiny, the only member of the family not created by Gaiman. Destiny predated The Sandman 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.
  • Likewise, no one would use Starman characters without at least giving James Robinson a heads-up.
  • Pat Mills created a whole bunch of strips for 2000 AD, but he 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.
  • 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. were screwed out of their comic only halfway through the first arc, leading the story to go in a very different direction than what was originally intended.
  • Rob Liefeld was annoyed that Peter David revealed that Shatterstar (a character Liefeld created for Marvel Comics) was gay, and posted that he couldn't wait to revert it (back to "asexual, and struggling to understand human behavior", not straight). Joe Quesada responded that Liefeld would have to get permission from the next editor-in-chief, and David has since confirmed Shatterstar's bisexuality. And since then a new Editor in Chief has come, and still no sign of Marvel changing it.
  • 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.
  • 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). According to a contract, 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.
  • 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).
  • The Fourth World series by Jack Kirby were his distinctive DC Comics creation, but he was never able to tell his stories the way he intended and its concepts and characters like Darkseid were integrated into the DCU completely instead.
  • There is an unconfirmed rumor that Brian K. Vaughan, writer of Runaways, made Marvel Comics sign a contract forbidding them from killing, maiming or in any other way harming Molly, whom he based on his younger sister. Additional material in one of collected editions seems to confirms the Molly rumor.
  • 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.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) became a big example where this was averted, and fans rooted for the big corporations instead of the individual creator. Ken Penders became a very controversial figure in Sonic fandom after he claimed to own multiple characters created for the comics. Archie Comics lost the contracts that could prove that this wasn't the case, and Penders left Archie with the rights of multiple characters despite being unable to actually use them alongside the main Sonic characters that are still owned by Sega. This incident caused Archie to reboot their comics, but that didn't work and the comics were ultimately cancelled, with the license moving to IDW. Penders has claimed for years that he is going to use those characters in projects that don't involve Sonic, but so far, nothing ever came to fruition out of it.

  • 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 of 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.
  • There is a Buffy the Vampire Slayer remake film under discussion, which is being planned without Joss Whedon's input. None of the TV characters (except Buffy) will appear. Whedon has actually refused to help with it. Alyson Hannigan, Anthony Stewart Head, Nicholas Brendon, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz and Seth Green have all said that it's a bad idea and, in the case of Head, that he imagines it will be "quite like watching a car wreck." Fortunately, it appears shelved for now.
  • 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.
  • When Marvel began its cinematic universe in 2008, the company was only able to use certain characters to start with, as the film rights to many of their biggest franchises had been sold off to various movie studios in the 1990s and early 2000s in an effort to keep the comic book publisher out of bankruptcy. Marvel's sale to Disney in 2009 helped to accelerate the return or partial return of most of these rights (such as Daredevil in 2012 note  and Spider-Man in 2015 note  but 20th Century Fox still held the film rights to two of Marvel's most well-known franchises, X-Men and the Fantastic Four. This, however, was interestingly averted for two characters in particular: Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch are in Avengers: Age of Ultron, as well as X-Men: Days of Future Past. The caveat? They are portrayed by different actors between series, and the Avengers can't refer to them as mutants while the X-Men can't reference their time with the Avengers. The end of all this came in sight on December 14, 2017 when Disney announced that its intention to acquire 20th Century Fox; the sale was completed on March 20, 2019, thus bringing the film rights to X-Men and Fantastic Four, and all related stories, characters and concepts, back to Marvel's hands and allowing them to be fully integrated into the MCU continuity.
  • A special case applies to the Hulk character. Before Marvel was bought by Disney, they had sold the distribution rights of Hulk films to Universal. Universal now has the right of first refusal to distribute any Hulk movie. Disney would always want to distribute their movies themselves (and thus keep all the profits). Thus, while they can continue to use the character himself in various MCU movies such as The Avengers (2012) and Thor: Ragnarok, they have refused to make any more Hulk movies following The Incredible Hulk. It doesn't help that the Hulk isn't exactly a seller, as both of his movies have performed at a rather mediocre level at the box office, thus not giving Disney any incentive to try to compromise.
  • James Cameron no longer has the rights for the Terminator franchise. He regretted selling them and made sure not to repeat this mistake with his subsequent films.
    • Contrary to popular belief, Fox (now a division of Disney) doesn't own the IP to Avatar, he does.
    • This was actually subverted in 2019 when the franchise rights reverted back to Cameron. He got Tim Miller to direct the new film Terminator: Dark Fate while Cameron produced and wrote it.
  • 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.
  • Star Wars features a notable aversion. When series creator George Lucas wrote and directed the first film, he offered to take a much lower salary for directing in return for the merchandising rights to the film. 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. Those rights wound up making Lucas a billionaire. On the other hand, the physical media distribution rights for the first six movies do still belong to Fox and will through 2020, at which point the rights to Episodes I-III, V and VI revert to Disney, who bought out Lucas. A New Hope will remain Fox's "in perpetuity", meaning a Boxed Set of all nine films will remain officially impossible (unless Fox decides to make a deal like they did with WB for the Batman (1966) Blu-rays). Disney has the internet purchase and rental rights to episodes I-III and VI-VII, however, and managed to work with Fox so that the entirety of the original and prequel trilogies were released to iTunes and its competitors on the same day. Of course, Disney ultimately simplified this by just buying Fox.
  • 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.

  • Tying into the below-mentioned Tabletop Games, R.A. Salvatore doesn't own the rights to the stuff he's written based off 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.

    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 Blood and its 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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 Tear Ring 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.
  • This is the case of the latest Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon games; although the PS1 games were developed by Naughty Dog and Insomniac Games, respectively, and published by Sony, both franchises were owned by Universal Interactive Studios from the start; later, 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.
  • 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) were all developed by Raven Software, but id Software owns the publishing rights to the first three games. Since id Software severed all ties with Raven after being acquired by ZeniMax Media in 2009, neither company will be able to re-release Heretic II, nor will anyone be able to make new installments in the series. This is unlikely to change unless both companies come to an agreement, or one company relinquishes their rights to the other. However, the inclusion of Galena in Quake Champions suggests that id Software can still create new characters from that franchise's universe for their other games.
  • 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 comics went through an incident where an individual artist managed to secure the rights of multiple characters and fans were not amused, see above.
  • 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 influrence 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 not explicitly confirmed, there have been rumors and reports for years that the full rights to Cave Story is no longer in the hands of its original creator, Studio Pixel, due to being taken advantage of by the publisher Nicalis when it comes to the publishing contract due to the language barrier. Nicalis has never clarified one way or the other, but when they tweeted a celebration of Cave Story's 15th anniversary, they started hiding replies accusing them of conning Studio Pixel rather than clearing the air and trying to do any form of PR damage control. Of course, considering numerous reports of the publisher and its owner treating their employees and clients like crap and said founder generally being a huge dick, along with how eager Nicalis is to exploit the Cave Story IP as much as it can, it's no surprise people have little reason to believe that the claim isn't true. There's also speculation that some of the content of Kero Blaster, the main character working under a boss who speaks an incomprehensible language, is at least partially thinly-veiled resentment towards Nicalis.
  • 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.

    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.

    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 Jossing 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.
  • Zigzagged with Felix the Cat: while the character 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 the franchise today is owned by his son, Don Oriolo.
  • 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.
  • When Disney bought Marvel, the former gave The Spectacular Spider Man producer Sony Pictures the choice of keeping the TV rights or the film rights to the character. Sony decided that the movies would make more money than Spectacular, and so it got 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 prove this can 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 The Ren & Stimpy Show is currently in development for Comedy Central, and it has been confirmed that John K will not be involved in any way.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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, confirmed that Cartoon Network owns the rights to the show, and is not involved with the 2016 remake, nor was he involved with the anime remake, Powerpuff Girls Z.
  • 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 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.


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