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Screwed by the Lawyers

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

Copyright and Trademark law have gotten in the way of or forced cancellation for many works. No matter how promising, popular or profitable a show is, it's still apt to get canceled if it would be illegal to keep broadcasting. This can be prone to What an Idiot! moments on the part of the owner of the intellectual property in question, since if it's that profitable, it makes sense to license the work rather than shut it down, unless of course the artist is Doing It for the Art.

Fans may have to Keep Circulating the Tapes if legal troubles also forbid a home release.

Sometimes, the reason why a trademark is so zealously protected is because the holder wants to prevent it from entering common use as a generic term, which would cause them to lose it. This has happened with Aspirin (once a Bayer trademark, they lost it in many countries after World War I), Cellophane, and other "genericized" trademarks. It's also why most productions bend over backwards to make sure that Real Life product names are not mentioned at all (unless as Product Placement), and certainly never as generics. But note that this only applies to trademarks, not to copyrights. Additionally, note that (contrary to the common misunderstanding of this law) a company is never legally required to protect a trademark in order to keep it — they don't lose it simply for failing to protect it; they only lose it if it enters common use as a generic term to the point where it is no longer trademarkable.


The Other Wiki refers to this as the tragedy of the anticommons, where the existence of competing rights holders — not just in copyright, but also in patent law,note  land ownership,note  leasing rights and other areas — frustrates achieving a socially desirable outcome. To further complicate matters, organizations of all kinds try as hard as possible to blur the lines between copyrights, patents, and trademarks in their favour.


Related to Screwed by the Network.


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    Comic Books 
  • In the late 1990s, Black Mermaid Productions of Australia were responsible for ElfQuest: Wavedancers, which featured a group of aquatic elves. "Creative differences" between Black Mermaid and EQ publisher Warp Graphics led to the cancellation of the series, and an agreement that neither company would reprint it. Warp came out with its own Wavedancers series featuring new characters, while Black Mermaid is reportedly working on something called Elf Fin.
  • Zenith could not be reprinted for some time because Grant Morrison claimed that when Rebellion bought the rights to 2000 AD from IPC, it apparently didn't include the rights to Zenith. The series was published in collected form in the mid-2010s, although the precise legal resolution remains murky.
  • Morrison's Doom Patrol and Flex Mentallo were kept out of reprints until the 2000s because of a trademark dispute with the Charles Atlas bodybuilding company over the character Flex, who began as a parody of Atlas's iconic comic strip advertisements.
    • On a similar note, his Gideon Stargrave mini-series, a spin-off of The Invisibles, is unlikely to ever get republished, as Morrison admitted that Stargrave is basically an expy of Jerry Cornelius, and Cornelius creator Michael Moorcock bears a grudge against Morrison for blatantly plagiarizing one of his stories.
  • Something of a running gag with Todd McFarlane and Spawn.
    • McFarlane was sued by NHL player Anthony Rory Twist over the mobster Tony Twist, who McFarlane had admitted was named after him. In 2004 McFarlane was found guilty of having profited on Twist's likeness and eventually settled out of court.
    • McFarlane's habit of claiming sole ownership over the characters he co-created - dating back to his work on Venom - has gotten him into a lot of trouble with Neil Gaiman, who wrote the stories that introduced the key characters Angela, Cogliostro, and Medieval Spawn in 1993. This resulted in an arduous legal battle that lasted until 2004, where a court hearing granted them joint ownership. Gaiman later returned to court over expies of Medieval Spawn and Angela and McFarlane's use of Miracleman, and it was ultimately decided that Gaiman would get Angela - eventually selling her to Marvel Comics in 2013 - and McFarlane would get Medieval Spawn and Cog.
    • Another well-known 80's superhero comic that was caught in a rights-ownership dispute for decades is the Alan Moore/Neil Gaiman Marvelman (Miracle Man in America) - Rebellion, IPC, Neil Gaiman, Alan Moore and Todd McFarlane all had a claim on the series. Marvel apparently cleared the rights for the earliest stories featuring the character, but not for its run in Warrior magazine or Eclipse Comics. Said run, featuring the work of Moore and Gaiman, is naturally of the most interest to comic readers and was left as a particularly sad example of Keep Circulating the Tapes. McFarlane claimed he had gotten the rights to Miracleman when he purchased Eclipse's creative assets in 1996, and introduced the character into Spawn as a cosmic entity called the "Man Of Miracles/Mother of Creation". In 2001, Gaiman launched a second lawsuit against McFarlane to get ownership of the character back, and in 2009 Marvel purchased the character from his original creator, Mick Anglo. In 2014, Marvel finally began reprinting the Moore issues from the start in serial form, and has promised that once the Gaiman issues run out they will publish new issues that continue the arcs as originally planned, while Spawn underwent a Continuity Reboot that retconned Miracleman out of the comic.
  • The 1978 one-shot comic Superman vs. Muhammad Ali was not reprinted until 2010, as the cover included the likenesses of over a hundred 1970s celebrities in the background. The lawyers had to be convinced no one would sue.
  • In 2010, Ken Penders, former head writer of Archie Comics' Sonic the Hedgehog, filed copyright claims for all of his characters and creations in an attempt to gain royalties for their use, promoting Archie Comics to file a lawsuit against him and take him to court to disprove his claims. While things didn't seem all that bad at first, the case began to swing in Penders' favor when it became clear that Archie could not prove their ownership of the properties in question, mostly due to having somehow misplaced a lot of paperwork including Penders' original contract, and caused so many delays in court that the judge threatened to throw the case out, which would give Penders the victory by default.note  In a panic, Archie decided to remove all of Penders' creations from the comic while it was in the middle of a story arc that centered around them, throwing the plot completely out of whack and making fans (and the creative staff) livid. In the end, the two sides settled, and though Penders stated that Archie could be allowed to use his creations anyway, the conditions he put up for that didn't sit well with Archie and they instead decided to perform a soft reboot for the series via a Cosmic Retcon at the end of Sonic the Hedgehog/Mega Man: Worlds Collide. The character removals also extended to all creators whose names were not Sega, DiC or Ian Flynn.
    • Conversely, when it comes to Penders himself, the whole affair can best be described as bit of a Pyrrhic Victory for him. While he might have the rights to the names of and some concepts related to the characters he created, he can in most cases not really put them to any use without making heavy alterations to their design as they in their original form would be highly derivative of Sega's property and could therefore easily place him on the receiving end of this trope.
    • Failed negotiations between Sega and Archie in 2017 directly resulted in the termination of the comic book series.
  • For a couple of years, Viz featured a strip called Captain Morgan and his Hammond Organ, about a pirate captain who was more interested in playing 70s pop and disco hits on his Wurlitzer than in raiding other ships (it makes no more sense in context). Unfortunately, the copyright holders of the songs complained. Viz didn't have a leg to stand on legally, and the only way out was to have used songs that were out of copyright, like hymns and spirituals. Given that this would have killed the joke, Viz had no choice but to drop the strip.
  • Marvel Comics' ROM: Space Knight probably won't be collected in a trade. Rom was a space based hero who fought gigantic Eldritch Abomination creatures called the Dire Wraiths in the Marvel Universe. However, Marvel only licensed the character of Rom from Parker Brothers; he is now owned by Hasbro through a series of acquisitions. Conversely, when Hasbro's comic partner IDW Publishing rebooted Rom for the shared universe of their Transformers and G.I. Joe comics, they had to completely strip him and the Wraiths of their Marvel-created elements as they still belong to Marvel, including things such as Rom's human form, his supporting cast and the character designs of the Wraiths. The best we've seen in Marvel these days is a Serial Numbers Filed Off offspring who talks about a great hero.
    • Something of the sort also happened to Godzilla as the beast once rampaged through Earth-616, chased by S.H.I.E.L.D. Once Marvel lost the rights to the beast, they used one story where one of the villains created during this time mutated him into something different, though that was retconned. He reappeared years later with a different, yet still Godzilla-like look, appearing just long enough so that his storyline with another character could be completed with him being killed.
  • The Spider-Man storyline Spider-Verse had virtually every Spider-Man in existence show up in some form. However, there are eight that were not allowed to appear. Seven were confirmed, though: the Spider-Man portrayed by Tobey Maguire, the Spider-Man portrayed by Andrew Garfield, the Spider-Man of The Spectacular Spider-Man, the Spider-Man of Spider-Man: The New Animated Series and the three Spider-Boys from the Amalgam Universe. The first four Spideys are owned by Sony Pictures, the latter three are (both legally and in-universe) half-Marvel, half-DC Comics (and it goes the other way too: DC stated they couldn't use any Amalgam character in Convergence either for the same reason). There was a workaround. One of the issues featured a conversation between two of the Spider-Men, who mentioned having seen (respectively) a Spider-Man who looked exactly like Tobey Maguire (referred to as "the guy from Seabiscuit") and a Spider-Man who looked exactly like Andrew Garfield (referred to as "the guy from The Social Network"). Additionally, they mentioned having seen a Spider-Man who kept teaching grammar and a Spider-Man who wouldn't stop singing show tunes.
  • It's rumored that the reason Eli Bradley (AKA Patriot) hasn't appeared in any of the Young Avengers-related comics in recent years is due to a legal dispute between Marvel and the estate of Robert Morales, who created the Bradley family.
  • In the early 1990s, Marvel UK was given the license from Warner Bros. to publish Tiny Toon Adventures comic books in most of Europe (except the US, where they were published on magazines from DC Comics). Marvel lost that license after just a year, were bought by Disney over a decade later, and Warner made all their comics based off their property published by DC in all territories following that stint, so it's safe to say the comics will not be reprinted anytime soon. The comics became extremely valuable and hard to find over time because of the comic book line's short lifespan, and Marvel UK isn't bothering to negotiate with their rival.
  • Inverted with Marvel's Super-Villain Team-Up. After its original cancellation, DC attempted to trademark the term "Super Villain", so Marvel put out a few additional issues to prevent that.
  • It's not just Disney's ownership of Marvel Comics that's preventing the comic book line of Nickelodeon's The Ren & Stimpy Show from being reprinted. Issue #6, dated May 1993, features Spider-Man as a main character, making his removal in a reprinting impossible.

    Fan Works 
  • This has happened to both Chrono Trigger: Crimson Echoes and Chrono Trigger Resurrection, as Square Enix does not take fan projects sitting down.
  • The fangame Streets of Rage Remake (which was in development for eight years) was yanked off of its website days after completion due to Sega wanting to protect their IP, despite the fact that Sega had (supposedly) given their blessing for the project on the condition that it was not sold for profit. Some theorized that it was because of the recent mobile phone port of Streets of Rage 2. Luckily, even though developer Bomber Games is legally unable to distribute it, that hasn't stopped fans from circulating the final version on the web anyway.
  • The Legend of Zelda fan-movie The Hero of Time was prevented distribution by Nintendo via cease-and-desist letter (see below for more info). However, Nintendo was nice enough to let the creators keep the movie up for about half a month in the holiday spirit at the end of 2009, which is a hell of a lot better than most companies do.
  • This is the main reason as to why Project M stopped development - the creators found out that the mod's scope had grown so large that Nintendo could have sued them instead of merely issuing a C&D letter.
  • Metroid II: Return of Samus was remade by a single fan, taking over 8 years to finish and released on August 7th, 2016 as Another Metroid 2 Remake. Not even a day later, Nintendo's lawyers issued a DMCA, causing all links to the download to be yanked offline. Fans took this about as well as you would expect. (This was because Nintendo was working on their own remake of Metroid II, Metroid: Samus Returns, and didn't want the Fan Remake to interfere.)
  • The fan game Pokémon Uranium was up for a day or two, receiving over 1.5 million downloads, before it was hit with a DMCA order. Its legitimacy wasn't verified as with AM2R, but the development team decided to play it safe and removed the download links anyway. This didn't sting quite as much since, unlike Metroid, Pokémon is still a healthy franchise, but it still came as a slap in the face after 9 years in development. (That the fan game is considerably Darker and Edgier than many of the main series titles and features human death within the first 30 minutes might have something to do with it.)
  • MechWarrior Living Legends was a fan-made (and officially licensed) total conversion Game Mod for Crysis Warhead, first released in late 2009. It offered combined-arms gameplay (infantry, tanks, aircraft, and battlemechs all fighting at once) unique to the franchise. A few months after the official new game, MechWarrior Online (a free-to-play game) was released in 2011, the Living Legends developers were forced to quit developing and disband after their final update (0.7.1) released in January 2013, as the developers of Online essentially yanked the Mechwarrior license away from the Living Legends development team. The official reasoning was that the Online developers "didn't want to double up their efforts" to compete with a free mod with a total playerbase of about a thousand players (about 1% of Online's) which was, embarrassingly, releasing new content at a faster rate. 0.7.1 was the developer's swan song, incorporating several new vehicles, a comprehensive balance pass, optimizations, and a series of What Could Have Been threads on the game's forum showing new features that didn't have enough time to be finalized.
    • The team (MekTek) developing the free release of Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries and its Expansion Pack / Game Mod "Mekpak" got caught up in the same legal scuffle - they, like Living Legends, had the rights to distribute the game (granted by Microsoft) - but when Online came out, their license mysteriously disappeared when Online's development team acquired the rights to the franchise. Unlike Living Legends which could continue to distribute their game, Mektek was required to remove all copies of the game from their website.
  • Downplayed with Black Mesa, a Fan Remake of Half-Life using Half-Life 2's Source engine. Valve Software agreed to let the project go ahead (even allowing the incomplete version to be sold, for money, on Steam), on condition that they take the subtitle "Source" off the project since it wasn't an official Valve release, and that Valve got first dibs on playing it.
  • The Warhammer 40,000 fan-film Damnatus originally had Games Workshop's full support, but during post production, problems with intellectual property rights arose due to differences between British and German copyright law.note  Thus, the movie was banned from official release. However, the team was told that they didn't have to delete the copy on their servers but couldn't release it. They agreed and didn't put any security on their servers to prevent hacking; the film quickly leaked and can now be found on YouTube among numerous sites.
  • Turn Signals on a Land Raider, a Warhammer 40K webcomic, stopped because it was becoming too time-consuming and expensive to do. The reason the lawyers got involved is that the only way to really give it a chance to make enough money to continue was to make it into a book. But Games Workshop refused to grant permission. Despite that refusal being of questionable legality (as a parody, it would probably be justifiable as fair use), it wouldn't be worth the hassle if the guy got sued.
  • A YouTube user by the name of DisneyNAW spent nearly an entire year working on a fan-film called "The Grand Adventure" which was pretty much a Mega Crossover of everything Disney starring Mickey, Donald and Goofy as they try to take down Chernabog. Halfway through the editing, he got a letter from Disney telling him not to post it online. Not for copyright law or anything, though that could be considered a major factor, but because of how certain characters are portrayed. First was Mickey, who was portrayed as mischievous. While they thought he perfectly captured his character, they wanted to bring Mickey's mischievous character their own way. And the second was Chernabog being portrayed as an Expy of The Devil, which collides with another reason why they C&D'd it: It felt a little too dark and edgy to them. Despite these reasons, they enjoyed watching the movie and gave DisneyNAW compliments on making the film (this may be Hilarious in Hindsight with the Mickey Mouse (2013) series's portrayal of Mickey plus a Night On Bald Mountain movie being announced.)
  • A modding group building a total conversion of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim into Middle-Earth was told to C&D by Warner Brothers because they didn't want it competing with The Lord of the Rings Online.
  • Marvel Comics put the kibosh on various super hero skins for The Sims.
  • In late February 2015, a Power Rangers Darker and Edgier "bootleg movie", Power/Rangers, was released to the Internet. Not only was the movie incredibly polarizing to the fanbase and non-fans, Saban Brands did not like this at all and put in C&D notices for it on YouTube and Vimeo, where they were hosted. Saban and the filmmakers eventually compromised by reuploading the film on YouTube and Vimeo with a copyright disclaimer-slash-content warning at the beginning of the film stating that it is a fan film completely unassociated with Saban Brands that really shouldn't be watched by little kids.
  • Equestria Daily staff member "Alexstrasza" created a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic T-shirt parodying Game of Thrones, featuring Twilight Sparkle as Ned Stark and with the motto "Winter is Coming" on the bottom. A week after it was posted on Teepublic, the site found out a week later, through an angry letter from HBO, that the motto had been trademarked by the network that year and had to pull the shirt from the store. Alexstrasza later posted a slightly modified version of the shirt, with the less infringing phrase, "Friendship is Coming," a suggestion that Equestria Daily administrator Sethisto did not fail to bring up shortly after announcing its takedown.
  • A number of amateur game programmers were attempting to make an MMORPG based on My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic and had the game's servers running for about a month before Hasbro slapped them with a C&D letter. At first they thought it was a hoax from some troll, but closer inspection revealed that Hasbro indeed wanted them to stop. Presumably this was to avoid conflict with the Gameloft game Hasbro later released.
    • My Little Pony: Fighting Is Magic got hit with the same thing a couple of weeks later. Just to twist the knife, this was only a couple of days after Fighting is Magic was confirmed to be going to the EVO Championship Series!note  The reaction from the fandomnote  was really unanimous.
      • However, a few weeks later, the original creator of Friendship is Magic, Lauren Faust, offered to help the creators finish what they started by creating new original characters. The game was revived, but is now sailing in a slightly different direction.
      • Some two and a half years later the project has since been revived in the form of Them's Fightin' Herds which drops the My Little Pony elements in favor of different non-pony ungulate characters.
  • Star Trek fan movie Star Trek: Axanar, the continuation of Prelude to Axanar was hit with a copyright infringement lawsuit from Paramount after their 2015 yearly report showed producer Alec Peters paying himself a $38,000 salary and funding a separate movie studio from donations to the project. Ultimately, CBS and Paramount set up a set of rules for fan works to prevent this sort of thing from happening again.
  • The Patreon for Alvin-Earthworm's Super Mario Bros. Z was taken down by Nintendo mid-February 2016.
  • Pixelmon, a Game Mod for Minecraft which combined its gameplay with that of Pokémon, had its development halted due to a request sent out by The Pokemon Company.

    Films — Animation 
  • Hey There, It's Yogi Bear! and The Man Called Flintstone didn't get released on DVD until 2008, due to a dispute between Hanna-Barbera owner Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures, owner of the films' theatrical distributor Columbia. During the period of the dispute, the films continued to air occasionally on Boomerang.
  • Ralph Breaks the Internet:
    • Universal's acquisition of the Super Mario Bros. movie rights resulted in Mario getting removed from the final product despite prior rumors that he would appear in the film with a crucial role (a fate that was shared with Bowser, who had previously appeared in predecessor film Wreck-It Ralph). Mario was previously excluded from Wreck-It Ralph, but this trope was not the reason why; Word of God says that Nintendo was all for them including Mario, but that the writers couldn't find a way to incorporate him that didn't end up turning the film into essentially a full-blown Mario adaptation. To make up for Mario and Bowser's absence, an Easter Egg showed up where a stack of yellow question mark blocks, complete with the 8-bit look of the mark, were shown in the background of Spamley's shack.
    • Oddly, the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise was also tied up with movie rights issues, with Paramount producing a feature film at the time, but Disney was able to make some sort of deal with Paramount and Sega in which Sonic and Dr. Eggman, both of whom appeared in the previous film, could appear again in much more limited roles. This arrangement was similar to the one Sega and Paramount made with Warner Bros. in regards to Sonic's appearance in Ready Player One.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The indie slasher All the Boys Love Mandy Lane didn't see the light of day in the United States for years, due to the company that held the American distribution rights to it going bankrupt and closing its doors, leaving the rights in limbo and the film sitting on The Shelf of Movie Languishment. It didn't help that it was also Screwed by the StudioThe Weinstein Company dumped the film on the now-bankrupt distributor once they saw a number of horror films (most notably Grindhouse) go bust at the box office, despite having already paid $3 million for the rights to it. Luckily, the rights were eventually sorted out, and in 2013 it received a limited theatrical release before hitting DVD.
  • Many people believe The Day the Clown Cried was unreleased due to poor taste but it was actually due to copyright issues over the script. In fact, Jerry Lewis was technically not supposed to finish it but he did, resulting in the movie being completed but rarely seen.
  • Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story was a sardonic biopic by Todd Haynes about Karen Carpenter's rise and bulimia-related death, with the additional gimmick that the Carpenters were represented by Barbie dolls. Due to the angry lawsuits from Karen Carpenter's estate and Mattel, the movie will be unlikely to be screened legally again.
  • In a rare example of an actor being forced into servitude by a film studio (after the end of the contract player era), Mike Myers withdrew from a proposed adaptation of his Saturday Night Live sketch Sprockets due to Old Shame of a script he wrote for the film. This pissed off Universal so much that they sued him a year later for failure to abide with the contract he signed with them. He tried to countersue, but a settlement was eventually reached in which he was required to work on a different project for them. After Tim Allen withdrew from playing the title role for the Live-Action Adaptation of The Cat in the Hat, Myers was eventually brought in. This event, along with his reputation of being non-cooperative on set, contributed to his eventual downfall.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe is a big victim of this, being a shared universe for a handful of cinematic characters adapted from a shared universe for hundreds of comic book characters.
    • As of December 2017, All Marvel properties and characters can interact with each other within the MCU. Despite this, The only characters and franchises Marvel still have legal trouble with are Incredible Hulk, which they don't have the distribution rights to, and Spider-Man, which is just being shared between them and Sony.
    • The reasons for this was because due of the way Marvel Studios operated back before the Marvel Cinematic Universe was conceptualized, where they had to sell off the film rights of many of their characters to other studios like 20th Century Fox, who gained the rights to the X-Men and Fantastic Four, and Universal Pictures, who gained the rights to the Hulk.
    • The main caveat with the film rights when Marvel sold them was basically "use it or lose it", meaning that if certain film rights aren't used, they would revert back to Marvelnote . Thus, Fox is rushing out X-Men films in rapid succession to keep the film rights away from Marvel, while Sony has decided to share the rights to Spider-Man with Marvel in hopes that they will be able to make more profits off the character than they did doing it alone; conversely, they both gave up entirely on Ghost Rider and Daredevil due to their box office weakness under their tenurenote . The whole rights debacle is also the main reason why the Spider-Man movies were rebooted note , and after the sequel somewhat flopped they struck the aforementioned deal with Marvel. As for the Fantastic Four, Fox hoped to get it right a second time to justify keeping the rights away from Marvel, but it ended up receiving the worst reception of any Marvel superhero movie.
    • This created a Catch-22: When Marvel did regain a new property, it was usually because the property's reputation had been too badly tarnished by the previous studio to continue making sequels. After The Incredible Hulk did poor business at the box office (which many blamed on the previous adaptation), Marvel decided not to rush out and try to integrate these properties right away, instead opting to focus on newer characters like Black Panther, The Inhumans, and Captain Marvel. This is why Daredevil was relegated to a Netflix TV show instead of a full-fledged movie reboot (which turned out to be for the better, as it was greatly acclaimed on release), and why it's unlikely we'll be seeing Blade or The Punisher reboots anytime soon (The Punisher, however, is a major character in Daredevil's second season, and eventually got his own show greenlit.)
      Kevin Feige: Whenever a character comes back to us, it's usually because the other studios don't want to make the movies anymore — and that usually means the [previous] movies may not have been particularly well-received. They all have potential, but we're not going to say "We got it back — make it."
    • According to Mark Ruffalo, the aforementioned legal issues involving Namor with Universal also apply to the Incredible Hulk as well, as Universal still retains some rights to make and distribute stand-alone Hulk movies (similar to how Spider-Man and Sony are now being handled), as they did with the original Hulk and The Incredible Hulk. Marvel can't seem to push them into giving the rights back, making the likelihood of another standalone movie featuring the Hulk unlikely.
    • Daredevil could not feature The Daily Bugle newspaper because, at the time, Sony and Marvel had not yet struck the deal to share the movie rights to the Spider-Man franchise. As a result, Ben Urich instead works for a paper called The New York Bulletin, and his boss J. Jonah Jameson was replaced with a Canon Foreigner named Mitchell Ellison.
  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension allegedly saw attempts at continuation blocked, despite interest, because rightsholder David Begelman feared that his creative bookkeeping might get exposed in the process.
  • Let It Be. Observers have said that the film won't likely be rereleased as long as Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are still alive, due to its unflattering and downright painful look at the slow collapse and eventual breakup of The Beatles.
  • Nosferatu was nearly lost forever after the studio was sued by Bram Stoker's estate for its similarities to Dracula.
  • The Janus Head (or The Head of Janus) was basically The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde with the names changed, and it got sued by the R.L. Stevenson estate. The problem was that if they did it as a straight-up Jekyll and Hyde movie, it would give away the ending. Unlike Nosferatu, this one really seems to be gone forever.
  • After Robin Williams's death, Disney began arranging plans for a live-action Genie prequel as an origin story to Aladdin, but it got locked away thanks to a clause in Robin Williams's will. His estate informed the company the clause bars any further usage of voice recordings and likenesses that had not been already made available to the public for 25 years after his death, meaning Disney cannot move forward with using Williams's likeness until August 11, 2039. Disney also had plans to make a third sequel with unused Robin Williams recordings, but it ended up being scrapped for the same reason.
  • The best Mario Bava, Rabid Dogs, is the one he himself never lived to see. The reason? The producer died as production was nearing completion, and his creditors, taking advantage of it, froze his assets and seized the film for over two decades. Owing to the circumstances, a Conspiracy Theory exists where the creditors put a contract out on the producer just to screw Bava's greatest masterpiece over.
  • For over two decades, Nintendo has had a strict policy of refusing to allow any of their video game franchises be adapted into films or film series. This was enforced after the Live-Action Adaptation of Super Mario Bros. became a catastrophic flop with both fans and critics. This policy caused a proposed film adaptation of Metroid to be scrapped, as well as the aforementioned Zelda fan film. However, beginning in late 2014, Nintendo might be relaxing this policy. Leaked emails stolen from Sony Pictures as part of a cyber attack against the studio revealed that the studio was in negotiations with Nintendo to acquire the film rights to Mario and adapt the franchise into an Animated Adaptation, with Spider-Man producer Avi Arad spearheading it. If the negotiations hold up, this would be the first time a Nintendo franchise outside the Pokémon series has ever been adapted into a film since the live-action Mario film of 1993 in the West or the Animal Crossing anime film of 2006 in Japan. Shigeru Miyamoto himself hinted such reconsideration. This even applies to porn parodies: Nintendo bought the rights to the two Super Hornio Brothers movies to ensure they wouldn't be re-released. Copies of the two movies are therefore very rare.
  • In a similar vein, Sega followed Nintendo's footsteps after the failure of the film adaptation of House of the Dead. Like the Nintendo example above, the anime Sonic X and the Sonic Boom tie-in television series averted this because of the shows being commissioned by Seganote , and not being licensed. However, a decade later, they decided to make another go, first by selling the film rights for Sonic the Hedgehog to Paramountnote , and then announcing six months later that they intend to bring many of their franchises to television, film, and digital streaming.
  • Probably the most notorious case is the James Bond franchise, as it had one that lasted forty to fifty years.
    • One of James Bond's greatest villains in the original novels was SPECTRE (and its leader Ernst Stavro Blofeld). The novel that introduced SPECTRE, Thunderball, was originally conceived as a film. The screenplay was a collaboration between James Bond's author Ian Fleming and screenwriter Kevin McClory. When plans for the film fell through, Fleming released Thunderball as a novel. McClory then sued Fleming for releasing the novel without his permission; this led to McClory being awarded the film rights to Thunderball as well as ownership of SPECTRE. Initially McClory allowed UA to use SPECTRE for some of their Bond films, but this agreement expired in 1975. Thus, SPECTRE was retired from the "official" Bond films. The Spy Who Loved Me was originally going to have Blofeld as a villain, but he was replaced by Expy Karl Stromberg. Blofeld would then make a Lawyer-Friendly Cameo in For Your Eyes Only where he gets killed off. Meanwhile, McClory made his own version of Thunderball under the name Never Say Never Again.
    • In 1997, McClory announced that, in partnership with Sony Pictures, would remake Thunderball again, this time under the title of Warhead 2000, with former Bond actor Timothy Dalton being considered to play 007, which would launch a rival Bond series. MGM (UA's successor) sued Sony over the decision, leaving the latter to give up on the property. Ironically, Sony got MGM to give them the film rights to Spider-Man as a trade-off.
    • Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace introduced a SPECTRE expy named Quantum. And then, shockingly, the legal issues were resolved in 2013. This led to James Bond fighting SPECTRE once again in the 2015 film... Spectre. Quantum being a SPECTRE expy did not go uncommented in Spectre, where they were retconned into a division of SPECTRE.
  • This trope affected the Kickstarter-funded HD Restoration of "Manos" The Hands of Fate. In 2011, Ben Solovey started up a Kickstarter to restore the movie after he discovered that he ended up buying the original 16mm print of the film. With the blessing of Tom Neyman and his daughter Jackie Neyman Jones (who played The Master and little Debbie respectively), Solovey worked on the restoration. However, Joe Warren, son of writer, director and actor Harold P. Warren, was angry at being left out and attempted to assert copyright on the film. Just one catch: Hal copyrighted the script, then called "Lodge of Sins". He didn't copyright the actual movie, essentially making the movie a Public Domain film. The movie was ultimately released by Synapse Films on October 15, 2015 and the restored print now resides in cold storage in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Film Archive.
  • If The Other Wiki is to be believed, this has also happened to Michael Jackson's Moonwalkernote  because of "specific music and film licensing" for any North American DVD or Blu-Ray release (the U.K. region free Blu-Ray release notwithstanding).
  • Played with the Child's Play series. A remake of the original film took a long time to get off the ground because, while MGM owns the original film, Universal got the rest of the series after United Artists passed on producing Child's Play 2. On the bright side, both studios are keen on cooperating on Blu-ray collections of the films, and the most recent Direct-to-Video sequels still follow continuity with the original films.
  • This trope is the reason why Princess Giselle from Enchanted is not an official Disney Princess. In order to include her in the line-up, Disney would have to secure lifelong rights to the use of her actress, Amy Adams.
  • A sequel to the well-received Master and Commander would be possible if the rights weren't tied up with three different studios, specifically 20th Century Fox (soon to be bought by Disney), Miramax Films (at the time owned by Disney until it was sold in 2010), and Universal (now owned by Disney rival Comcast).
  • With all of the above, it's gratifying to find that this trope comes into play, but against major studios at least twice in regards to very popular movies: both Charade and Night of the Living Dead (1968) both fell into the public domain immediately upon release. In both cases, it was because the studios only placed the date of publication and the copyright holder, and not the clear assertion of copyright ("Copyright", "Copr." "(C)" or the like) as was necessary under the copyright statutes before 1989.
  • 20th Century Fox's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen movie was heavily altered from the comic book for a lot of reasons, but this was one of them. The filmmakers were forced to replace the original Invisible Man with a Legacy Character named "Rodney Skinner" because Universal still owned the movie rights to the original, and they Adapted Out the League's handler Campion Bond (who was heavily implied to be the grandfather of a certain MI6 agent) to avoid a lawsuit from MGM.
  • Ever wondered why Star Trek (2009) was a soft-reboot? It was because Paramount doesn't own the merchandising rights to any of the non-film Star Trek material; they're owned by CBS. This means Paramount receives no profits from merchandise that doesn't feature concepts originating from the films, which is why all the Kelvin Timeline designs get tweaked just enough that they can make distinct merchandise of it (even in cases where it doesn't make much sense for the design to be different, like the Klingons). Anyone hoping for another Next Generation movie... don't hold your breath.

  • Redd Kross bassist Steven Shane McDonald added a bass track to the entirety of The White Stripes' 2001 album White Blood Cells, then put MP3s of the whole project (entitled Redd Blood Cells) online. Later on, after some kind of "arrangement," only the first track remains online.
  • George Jones's 1989 single "The King Is Gone (And So Are You)" was pulled as a single because it contained the phrase "yabba-dabba-doo" and thus became the subject of a lawsuit from Hanna-Barbera.
  • Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines"... grab some food, this is gonna take a while. Initially, Thicke and co-writers/co-performers Pharrell Williams and Clifford "T.I." Harris sued the family of the late singer-songwriter Marvin Gaye for alleging that "Blurred Lines" had infringed on the copyright of "Got to Give It Up." Thicke and Williams both claimed to the public that while the song was indeed an influence in writing "Blurred Lines," it did not copy the song outright and that it only replicated the groove and feel of it.
    The song was allegedly written at the recording studio in less than an hour. However, a year later, Thicke admitted in a deposition released by The Hollywood Reporter that he had never actually had any part in the song's composition, citing high drug and alcohol influence at the time and that Williams penned the song entirely. Ultimately, the Gaye family countersued the two artists for copyright infringement. T.I., meanwhile, was vindicated when he testified that he recorded his vocals after Thicke and Williams, and that he played no part in songwriting despite being credited for it. On March 10, 2015, the Gaye family won the suit, and both Thicke and Williams were ordered to pay $7.4 million in damages to the family.
  • The original packaging for Weezer's "Buddy Holly" single was a childhood photo of Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo with an unidentified woman sitting next to him. When the band realized her likeness was being used without permission, the original packaging was recalled and replaced with another childhood photo of Cuomo with his brother, Leaves.
  • Incubus's debut album, Fungus Amongus, has not been reissued since 2000, and is not available in any digital outlet, due to both Old Shame from Incubus and legal conflicts between the band and Sony Music Entertainment.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic performed a parody of James Blunt's "You're Beautiful" called "You're Pitiful", and intended to release it as the lead single to the album Straight Outta Lynwood. However, after recording completed, Atlantic Records (Blunt's label) prohibited Yankovic from releasing the song, despite Blunt giving prior approval to writing and liking the parody. Legally Atlantic had no authority to block the release; parody is well established as being protected speech and no permission is required. Yankovic seeks permission from the original artists of songs he wants to parody simply as a courtesy. It was later released as a free downloadable single on MySpace and has played it in concert, but it has never seen a general release to this day. In a case of Tropes Are Not Bad, this setback led to Al crafting "White & Nerdy" in its stead, and the song has since gone on to become one of his biggest hits. Amusingly, the "White & Nerdy" video features a massive Take That! to Atlantic in which Al vandalizes the Atlantic Records Wikipedia page with the words "YOU SUCK!", something his fans actually proceeded to do following the video's release.
  • All modern prints of the Conan the Barbarian (1982) soundtrack exclude the track "Tower of Set" (also sometimes titled "Stealing the Eye of the Serpent") because it's basically the Clemencic Consort's "Cantiga 166" with eerie female vocals tacked on.
  • Sufjan Stevens' album Illinois initially had Superman on the cover art. A few weeks after the album's release, the record label, Asthmatic Kitty, realized they'd never gotten the rights to use Supe's likeness, so they pulled all unsold copies before DC Comics could sue them. Fortunately, AK worked out a deal with DC: they could sell the copies that had already been printed, but subsequent printings wouldn't include Superman. Some new covers had empty sky were Supes had been, while others had a bunch of balloons in his place. The initial vinyl pressing had a balloon sticker obscuring Supes. And the 10th anniversary remaster of the album substituted another superhero: Blue Marvel—and this time, AK made sure to get permission from Marvel Comics beforehand.
  • After Doro Pesch realized she was the only original member of Warlock left, she intended to continue using the name for what was essentially now her backing band as a solo artist, but the band's former manager Peter Zimmermann sued for the name rights and won. Pesch began using "Doro" as her touring name, though she eventually regained the rights to the name "Warlock" in 2011.
  • Peg + Cat's first album originally had a beautiful cover art that was a parody of the The Beatles' Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cover art. However later releases replaced it with a much more generic and dull cover art. It's pretty much assumed that this happened.
  • The KLF are no stranger to this, given that many of their songs sampled other well known songs. However, their most well known run-in with lawyers was with the track The Queen and I, whose title is not only a nod to The King and I, they also heavily sampled ABBA's Dancing Queen. After some fierce courtroom battles with ABBA's lawyers, they were forced to recall all unsold copies of the album the song is on from all store shelves. They then went to Sweden to try to gain an audience with ABBA to seek forgiveness. Failing to do so, they burnt several cartons of the unsold vinyls in a field and dumped the rest into the North Sea.note 
  • This is what ended up wrecking The Verve. The song "Bitter Sweet Symphony", which propelled them to mainstream fame in 1997, caught the attention of Allen Klein, former manager of The Rolling Stones and the owner of their pre-1971 work, sued them for overuse of a sample of Andrew Oldham Orchestra's version of "The Last Time". The Verve lost and was forced to change the writing credits to Jagger/Richards as well as give the Stones all of their earnings made from the song. They would end up flailing for another year before announcing their breakup.

  • The phrase "Customer Notice: *Insert name of company*, The owner of this channel has forced *insert name of cable or satellite provider* to suspend it despite our repeated requests to keep it available to you" often pops up on certain television systems in the event of a contractual negotiation dispute between the channel owners and television providers providing the systems in question. Notable disputes that led to these kinds of messages include the December 2009 blackout of Fox-owned channels from Time Warner Cable (now Spectrum) and the July 2012 blackout of Viacom-owned networks from DirecTV.
  • Local station owner Sinclair Broadcast Group managed to do this to themselves when attempting to acquire rival Tribune Media. When the deal was first announced, many expected the merger to sail through easily if Sinclair complied with all the necessary divestments they had to make to get FCC and DOJ approval. But Sinclair's ego got the better of them and attempted to divest most of the stations to people who had significant ties to Sinclair so that the broadcaster could still operate the stations without actually violating the laws on paper. The FCC, who under a business-friendly administration was relaxing media ownership rules to benefit companies like Sinclair, wasn't pleased with Sinclair's proposal and refused to sign off on it, and Tribune, who was getting fed up with Sinclair's aggressive tactics, as well as the prolonged regulatory review, decided to break up the deal and sue Sinclair for breach of contract.

    New Media 
  • The phrase "this video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by *insert name of company*, (Sorry about that.)" (see example image above) has become a well known sight on YouTube, even with Team Four Star, who put a disclaimer at the beginning of every episode they post. The Warner Music Group has also been responsible for taking away music from videos, saying that it violates copyright. If a video gets blocked for copyright infringement, the user who posted that particular video would usually get a copyright strike and would be forced to watch the Happy Tree Friends video about copyright law and take a trivia question. If a user gets three strikes, their account will be banned and all of the user's videos will be removed from the site.
    Announcer in YouTube Copyright School: Even though YouTube is a free video sharing site, you can still get into serious trouble for copyright infringement. You can be sued, and found liable for monetary damages. You could lose your booty, or worse: You might lose your YouTube account. You only get a few chances. If YouTube receives a valid notification of alleged copyright infringement from a copyright holder for one of your videos, the video will be removed in accordance with the law. You will be notified via e-mail and in your account and you'll get a strike. If YouTube finds you are a repeat offender, you'll get banned for life!
    • Another phrase "This video contains content from *Insert Company Here* who has blocked it (in your country) on copyright grounds" pops up a lot, one variant lists multiple companies and adds "one or more of which" before "has blocked it...". Sony Music, Warner Music and Universal Music do this a lot, and so do other media companies.
    • LittleKuriboh lampooned the "Three Strikes" rule to hell and back in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: Season Zero episode 3, complete with "[This is what the YPD Actually Believes]" disclaimer.
    • Certain videos have managed to avoid this fate by claiming Fair Use.
    • YouTube has come under fire for the fact that they remove videos just because of an infringement claim without investigating whether the video is Fair Use or not. YouTube, and "Content Service Providers" in general, are required by law to pull without investigation as soon as they receive proper notice, or else they themselves can be Sued by the Lawyers. Uploaders can object to cases of "mistake or misidentification", in other words claiming that the copyright owner made a mistake when it failed to see that "it's legal Fair Use, damn it!"
    • One machinima short was completely blocked by WMG specifically because of one short song clip used in the beginning of the video.
    • Curiously, there is a pattern that tends to emerge with what gets pulled and what doesn't, even aside from some content owners being more stringent about it than others: TV shows and movies (especially current ones) are the strictest, along with popular music (unless the artists deliberately use online distribution as free advertising). Music from other sources, though, tends to be less strictly enforced. Rarest of all to be cut are video game clips; since you can't actually play the game on YouTube, each video game clip is basically a trailer the producers didn't have to pay for. Also, AMVs are, for whatever reason, often kept in the same way Fan Fic in general is rarely targeted, despite theoretically having two possible angry claimants.
    • But since anyone can make a copyright claim, they don't need any proof that you are the copyright holder, and since they don't investigate any claims, anyone who just doesn't like someone's video or even a bot can file a false claim. To dispute the claim, you must provide unnecessary personal information (your full name, phone number, physical address, email address), meaning most people who are the victim of a false copyright claim would just not bother disputing. Even though YouTube tells people not to file false claims and that repeated false claims could get the person in legal trouble, that doesn't stop people from filing false claims.
      • Viacom was possibly the worst offender, it was known to claim copyright claims to properties it didn't own, like Mass Effect playthroughs and even a Mass Effect video from BioWare's own YouTube channel, along with Meet the Scout from Valve's official channel (though the latter was restored shortly afterwards). They also claimed clips from Sesame Street that aired on Noggin, because they owned Noggin. And it had the Noggin logo on the bottom right. That is why a lot of Sesame Street uploaders such as JonnyTBird4789, Nantosuichoken, and many other users were terminated from YouTube.
      • Viacom has also become infamous for filing infringement claims against content uploaded by its own authorized agents. The fact that Viacom itself cannot reliably differentiate legally uploaded from illegally uploaded content contributed to the collapse of their suit against Google for YouTube content. They also took down the original 2012 pilot of Breadwinners, which was uploaded by the original creators before they even sold the rights to Nickelodeon.
      • In late 2017/early 2018, long after The Nutshack aired, many videos containing the memetic opening theme were blocked due to copyright claims from ABS-CBN Corporation, including most videos on the show's official YouTube channel.
      • Warner Music Group (yes, them again) is another notable offender. They have made copyright claims to properties that they didn't own, like shows done by Walt Disney Television Animation (such as Disney's Marsupilami), and many Disney uploaders were banned from YouTube because of that. The same thing happened with Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?; they claimed they owned the theme song by Rockapella. Recently, WMG is now claiming Sesame Street. It got so bad that the official Sesame Street YouTube account got terminated.
      • After acquiring The Beatles' recordings in 2012 following their purchase of EMI, Universal Music Group began flagging and blocking any videos featuring their music. It got so bad that their own Vevo account on YouTube got terminated as well.
      • As of May 1, 2018, Saban has claimed Raw Toonage, Bonkers, and Marsupilami as SabansPowerRangers
    • Capcom and some other video game companies are starting to remove playthroughs and walkthroughs of their games, especially more recent ones, from YouTube.
    • Nintendo is a bit of an odd case. They never really had any issue with LP's of their games, but in May 2013 they suddenly began claiming full monetization rights for videos that use their content. For Let's Play channels that primarily use Nintendo games, such as The Runaway Guys and the Game Grumps, this new policy effectively crippled their income.
    • Konami is very protective of Metal Gear Solid. Twice now they've threatened to sue (not simply have the videos taken down, sue) Machinima and Two Best Friends Play when the latter announced their intentions to do LP's for Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Ironically, they had no issue with the Best Friends' Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance LP.
    • Also works re: preventing YouTube videos from working outside of specific countries.
    • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic videos began getting hit hard by the year 2016. The year prior, Hasbro Studios made an agreement with Sony Music Entertainment to have the former's music catalog released by the latter. At first, fans thought that it was only applied to the Friendship Games special and the Christmas album the prior year, but it turned out the deal applied to the entire music archive of the series as well, meaning anything pertaining to the music of the series, remixes or not, would be targeted by SME. Fans soon declared war against SME believing their actions were unjust.
    • Jimquisition was hit by copyright strikes many times due to indie developers not being able to handle Jim's harsh criticism of their game and issuing a claim out of spite since they think their games are perfect. In almost every case, Jim files a counterclaim and the other party does not respond (they assume using scare tactics would work), which means Jim's removed video is reinstated after two weeks. Jim gets annoyed by this to no end since he's forced to answer quizzes from YouTube to see if he understands what copyright means and it disrupts his schedule for other content he had planned.
      • The one occasion when an indie developer responded to a counterclaim was when James and Robert Romine, of Digital Homicide infamy, sued Jim in 2016 over his videos criticizing their shovelware games. During the litigation period, Jim's videos regarding Digital Homicide were brought down, and Jim was legally barred from discussing the matter in his videos, in addition to being forced to divide his time between fighting the lawsuit and making content. Eventually, however, the case against Jim was dismissed with prejudice: the Romines are no longer allowed to sue Jim on this matter again, and the case was dropped after Jim's lawyer explained to the Romines, in detail, the world of pain they would be in if they actually brought the case to court. After the sordid ordeal ended, Jim took the opportunity to rub all of the salt into the Romines' wounds.
  • The above was what caused That Guy with the Glasses to start its own site and now many years later, when Allison Pregler and The Nostalgia Critic's reviews of The Room got pulled for this very reason, fans got pissed.
    • The Critic responded to the legal threats by posting a video that was basically an entire episode's worth of Take Thats against the individuals responsible.
    • Luckily, Doug Walker successfully defended the videos as Fair Use.
    • Ironically, when The Room review was pulled, it was possible to find it uploaded by other people on YouTube.
  • The Mysterious Mr. Enter was temporarily banned from YouTube in January 2015 due to a copyright claim by either Viacom or 20th Century Fox. He was posting a review of the show. And it was under fair use. But those companies bypass the fair use disclaimer, seemingly viewing fair use as legalized piracy or believing that Enter's scathing reviews of their material hurts their bottom line, and shut down his account. He then filed a dispute and two weeks later, his channel went back up.
  • Many online scanlation sites have removed their archived scanlations because of attitude shifts from some publishers. In fact, quite a number of them have been shut down or censored due to publisher pressure.
    • Manga Fox is a good example. After a manga is licensed, they usually take down the hosted scanlation, leaving just the synopsis and forum discussions. Quite a few licensed manga are still up there to read, though.
  • Like many radio show hosts, Phil Hendrie allows website subscribers to download show episodes as podcasts. At some point, network lawyers decided that it was a copyright violation for podcasts to include music. This affected any skits that involved music, including his frequent parodies of Jim Rome's and Art Bell's shows that incorporated their respective "Welcome to the Jungle" and "Dancing Queen" theme songs, and his Running Gag of using the "Darth Vader Death March" as theme music for his fictional boss. The music in these cases was replaced by awkward silence, and if characters in Phil's comedy skits commented on the music, podcast listeners could not know what they were talking about.
  • Some flashes on Newgrounds are victims of this due to being based on copyrighted works, as Newgrounds has received cease-and-detest letters from companies such as The BBC (for a Teletubbies spoof called "Teletubby Fun Land", which has been eventually renamed to "Telebubby Fun Land"), The Jim Henson Company, and MGM (for a RoboCop flash tribute made by a fan).
  • Drum Corps International pulled several pre-2000 finals performances from its Fan Network due to copyright issues involving composers of works performed during those shows. Affected composers include Leonard Bernstein, Chick Corea, Ottorino Respighi, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and John Williams. A few months later, DCI pulled the plug on the Fan Network altogether.
  • Team Four Star has a very interesting love-hate relationship with this trope and especially with Toei Animation. At least once a year, Toei will take down various episodes of Dragon Ball Z Abridged off of YouTube, which the team ends up having to fight to put back up (they can't do anything about the videos on their own site). There are rumors that Toei told Funimation to replace a portion from Dragon Ball Z Kai: The Final Chapters that was dubbed by TFS with the original dub audio and they've apparently been "graylisted" and can't actively work with Funimation for a while because of Toei, as Nick Landis revealed in a livestream.
  • It's not uncommon for YouTube Poop to get hit with copyright claims. For instance:
    • All of Chickenpika's videos were taken down due to a copyright claim alleging to be Michael Rosen. Chickenpika was able to successfully restore the videos after proving that Rosen did not actually make the claim.
    • cs188 said that he stopped making Poops of music videos because they kept getting hit with claims (such as a Poop of "Baby Got Back" that got hit the day it was uploaded). Also, in a non-copyright-related example, he took down "No one needs foundation repair", one of his most famous Poops, because of a privacy complaint from the foundation repair company whose commercial he used in it. As well, his own Michael Rosen Poops were taken down, presumably by the same impersonator who targeted Chickenpika.
    • Mark3611 had his original channel hacked, so he returned a few years later as "marck3611". That channel got hit with a copyright claim and hasn't been back since, thus meaning that some of his "later" Poops such as "The third wave of feminism" have not come back.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Garfield had a short run of Believe it, or don't gags until PAWS Inc. got a cease-and-desist letter from the Robert Ripley estate.

  • Some years ago a British food company produced a brand of chips [fries] called Stringfellows, which had to be withdrawn when nightclub owner Peter Stringfellow objected to the name.
  • McDonald's' Corp. tried to force a Scottish fine dining establishment named McDonald's to close or change its name despite the latter being in business for over a century. The fast food chain lost the case. It helped that the Scottish restaurant was run by a high member of Clan McDonald.
    • McDonald's Corp. also attempted this in Malaysia, except that the dining establishment in question was a small Indian-Muslim restaurant whose only offense is that its name vaguely resembled McDonald's. The fast food chain lost that case, too.
    • One of the cases they did win was to convince a San Francisco coffeeshop to change its name from McCoffee, whose name was a pun on the name of the owner Elizabeth McCaughey, a good decade before they got into the coffee business themselves. These and many other examples can be found at The Other Wiki.
      • The reason that it's not particularly common to see parodies that use fast-food chains named "Mc-anything", or real-life businesses named "Mc-Anything", is because McDonald's has been so aggressive and successful at suing anybody who tries to, even when the business in question has nothing to do with food. Wal-Mart has taken on this role of late, going after all the "-Mart"s of the world. Though in both cases, this is largely because they can lose their valuable trademarks if they don't pursue every known possible infringement; the legal term is "Abandonment".
    • At least one famous case of McDonald's being clearly in the right was the early 1990's, was when they sued a South African businessman who was opening hundreds of fake McDonald's restaurants, complete with Big Macs.
      • However, "Abandonment" came into play here: McDonald's lost the case because, due to not operating in South Africa during Apartheid, they had forfeited their own trademarks in South Africa and the businessman in question had effectively managed to acquire them post-abandonment. They ended up buying him out.
    • A variation on this happened with Holiday Inn: There was a separate, unaffiliated Holiday Inn operating in Ontario (opened before the chain was operating in Canada). They lost a lawsuit to force them to rename and for a long time had them listed on their website as "not part of this chain of Holiday Inns". However, eventually the owners of this hotel decided to affiliate with the larger chain...only to fail to be later dropped (apparently due to service standards issues) and THEN have to rename themselves. Oops.
  • The Bratz doll line was stopped in its tracks by a 2005 court case that found that the concept was created while its creator was still at Mattel, before making a comeback in 2010, although by that time, their popularity had waned (plus, the new dolls are a bit more conservative). This also had a more permanent knock-on effect for the Animated Shows.
  • BIONICLE not only took certain character names from the Maori language, it apparently tried to trademark them so that it held the rights to words from Maori language. Due to threats of legal action from some Maori tribal groups, Lego changed tack and altered the spelling of the names. This is odd, since trademarks are contextual. For example, DC Comics has a trademark on The Flash, and that is a perfectly valid trademark, but that doesn't mean that they've trademarked the word flash and that you can't use it anywhere with any meaning. Most likely the Maori groups' complaint was not about the trademark itself.
  • Quakers, the religious group that is a Christian sect, once tried to sue Quaker Oats for using the name of the religion (established in the 1600's) and the image of a supposedly historical Quaker. However, due to the fact that the official name of the religion is the Religious Society of Friends, the Quakers lost the lawsuit to the company.
  • Sony has in the past gone after restaurants called Soni's. Back in the late 80s, they forced the closure of an upscale Baltimore restaurant that had been in business for over 30 years.
  • Toho is extremely aggressive in protecting their Godzilla trademark, even going after anyone who uses a name ending in -zilla, such as a steak house using the name Steakzilla.
  • Hasbro and DreamWorks Animation had planned a merger in November 2014. The talks, however, were called off after only two days. Although a common reason was disagreement over CEO's Jeffrey Katzenberg's sale price, which analysts viewed to be more than the company's actual worth, others claim that the talks were called off when Disney, DreamWorks' rival, threatened to cancel their deals and contracts with Hasbro if the merger went forward. With DreamWorks getting acquired by NBCUniversal in 2016, it seems Hasbro's actions to cancel the merger were justified.
  • Thanks to original network founder and televangelist Pat Robertson, Freeform is contractually obligated to air The 700 Club every weekday, excluding most weekends except for telethons. The channel has done everything to ensure that the network's main demographic never watch it, deliberately putting it in a graveyard slot at 11:00 p.m. with a metric ton of roadblocks and disclaimers before it. The obligations came about when Robertson spun the CBN Family Channel off into a for-profit corporation, which was later bought out by a joint venture of Fox and Saban Entertainment and rebranded as Fox Family (later bought out by Disney and rebranded as ABC Family). note 
  • Ay, yi, yi, the screwing Marvel Comics is giving to just about every company nowadays. Website Bleeding Cool has been chronicling various companies who have been forced to stop doing anything related to the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. This has gone so far as to have t-shirts that boasted covers of Secret Wars having characters replaced and edited out. Even Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite lacks any X-Men/Fantastic Four presence. The big rumor towards this is that Marvel and 20th Century Fox are in a spat because Fox refuses to give back the rights to their movies (there's even more rumors that this is because of Disney buying out Lucasfilm, thus screwing them out of Star Wars. It's really petty.)

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

    Professional Wrestling 
  • ECW used popular rock, metal, punk, and hip-hop tracks for everything, from wrestler themes to show themes to video packages, to further their image as a hip, rebellious, underground promotion. Unfortunately, it was also a very cash-strapped promotion, which meant that said music had to be edited out of home video releases to avoid legal entanglements. Part of the reason the promotion commissioned and published the ECW Extreme Music and ECW Anarchy Rocks CDs was so that they could have less expensive cover versions by less well-known bands at their disposal instead.
  • The wrestling vampire Gangrel was used much less in WWE after White Wolf threatened to sue for infringement, as Gangrel was the name of one of the vampire clans in its Vampire: The Masquerade RPG. They settled for a 5-year agreement which White Wolf would be credited in any material in which Gangrel was used. White Wolf would eventually sue the WWE in 2008 after they used Gangrel in the Raw 15 Year Anniversary Battle Royal without credit.
  • After the American Wrestling Association went under, former employees started Super Stars Of Wrestling to keep some of their income flowing. They also decided to keep the AWA name going but didn't have as strong a claim to it as they thought. A lawsuit by WWE ended up putting an end to the brand in North America.
  • Fittingly, it was lawyers who ended up putting an end to "The Beat Down Clan" when Hernandez joined the group only for TNA (who had not checked beforehand to see if they could legally put him on their program) to find itself unable to use any footage of him on their program due to an existing contract Hernandez had with Lucha Underground.
  • WWE Network was forced to pull all Stampede Wrestling footage from the service after only a few days when Bret Hart claimed he had the rights to all Stampede footage featuring him, though they are free to continue circulating footage of him from the other promotions he has signed with, WWE included.

  • Due to Universal's exclusive licensing contract with Marvel Comics a decade before Disney's acquisition of Marvel, Disney is severely limited in the Marvel-themed attractions they can build at Disney parks in Orlando and Japan, as Universal's theme parks in both areas have built Marvel theming first. Disney is only able to use the characters Universal didn't use such as Doctor Strange and the Guardians of the Galaxy. This is why when Disney announced a new "Marvel Land" for their theme parks to open in 2020, the Orlando and Japan parks were left out of the mix.
  • Universal themselves got into a similar situation after acquiring DreamWorks Animation in April 2016. While they are free to use DreamWorks' main franchises in all three of their American resorts, as well as their Japan and Singapore parks, Universal can't use them in countries where DreamWorks had licensed them to other park operators prior to the acquisition, including Australia, Russia, Dubai and China, where other companies have the licensesnote . Similarly, the 1964 Rankin/Bass likeness of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, whose special is now owned by Universal through DreamWorks, was licensed out to SeaWorld by DreamWorks in November 2015, a few months before Universal purchased the studio, so don't expect him to appear in Universal's American parks anytime soon (though he might be allowed in the Japan and Singapore parks, if Universal is willing to pay royalties to The Rudolph Company).

    Tabletop Games 
  • The owners of the Legend of the Five Rings card game were forced to change the art on the card backs because, according to the International Olympic Committee, it was too similar to the design of the Olympic rings. (For a Collectible Card Game, changing the card backs is pretty much a death sentence for the value of any cards made pre-change.)
  • A popular game from Cheapass Games was "Before I Kill You, Mister Bond". (The premise was that villains don't just shoot the captured agent because he's worth more points if he's taunted a few times first.) It was pulled off the market after a cease-and-desist from MGM, and reissued as "Before I Kill You, Mister Spy". MGM didn't like that one either. Cheapass later re-released the game as "James Ernest's Totally Renamed Spy Game", and so far seems to have not garnered any attention from MGM again.
  • In the 1970s, TSR narrowly avoided a lawsuit from Chaosium when they tried to incorporate the Cthulhu Mythos into the nascent Dungeons & Dragons. Chaosium, who had been sold the right to produce Lovecraft-related board games by copyright holder Arkham House, stipulated that TSR could keep the content if they credited Chaosium's "Call of Cthulhu" series. TSR backed down and removed the content instead.
    • A similar situation occurred with Elric material, Chaosium owning the rights and TSR publishing some content. It didn't help that Michael Moorcock failed to realize that two different companies were involved and approved TSR's publishing material he had licensed to Chaosium. The situation was resolved as with the Cthulhu material.
  • When BattleTech first debuted, it made liberal use of 'Mech designs licensed from various Japanese animes. Problem was that they weren't properly licensed, and Harmony Gold, the American distributor and owner of these designs, took issue with the 'Mechs. They are now called the Unseen. In summer of 2015, Catalyst Gaming Labs, the company that produces BattleTech, announced that after years of trying to resecure the rights to the Unseen images, they had instead decided to retcon their appearance using new, created-by-Catalyst artwork that was similar to their original appearances while being just different enough to keep the lawyers happy.
    • Even worse, there is, officially no first edition of BattleTech at all. The first edition was actually a game called "BattleDroids". The word "droid" is a registered trademark of Lucasfilm. Depending on who you talk to, either Lucas' lawyers sent a letter to FASA, or FASA voluntarily decided to change the name to curry favor with Lucasfilm as groundwork for (ultimately unsuccessful) negotiations to do a Star Wars RPG. Either way, FASA took the opportunity to refine the game while renaming it.
    • The events that led to the Unseen involved another example of being screwed by the lawyers: FASA filed a lawsuit against Playmate Toys due to their unlicensed use of the likeness of one of BattleTech's iconic mechs for a toy for the Exo Squad toy line. The court ruled in FASA's favor that it was a violation of their copyright, but also ruled that FASA wasn't due any money since it didn't directly compete with their own products. It was about this time that they realized that they didn't actually have the rights to the Unseen and stopped using them before Harmony Gold went after them.
  • The Pokémon trading card game: The franchise's owners were sued by self-proclaimed psychic Uri Gellar, who claimed they used his persona in a negative way as Kadabra. The company won, saying it didn't base Pokemon on people (although Hitmonlee and Hitmonchan and Wobbuffet may beg to differ, and, in all fairness, the Japanese name for the mon, "Yungerrer", and said mon's use of bending spoons to demonstrate psychic powers are clear references), but there still hasn't been a release since then of a Kadabra card in the game. Oddly, Abra and Alakazam do show up, even though (since older cards, including all printed Kadabra cards, are disallowed in tournaments) Alakazam can only be played nowadays with special cards allowing the playing of evolved Pokemon, or in the case of a few Japanese releases, as special variants that don't count as evolved at all.
  • When White Wolf released their sci-fi game Æon, they ran afoul of MTV, who saw it as challenging their trademarks for Æon Flux. WW settled things by renaming Æon to Trinity; as a result, copies of the original corebook with the Æon name are much sought after. The new edition gets around the issue by making the full title Trinity Continuum: Æon, which is apparently different enough for the lawyers.
  • Games Workshop loves this trope, as seen under "Damnatus" in the Fan Works section, among others. However, one case ultimately resulted in Hoist by His Own Petard, which was a legal battle with Chapterhouse Studios, a third-party that creates bits and models that aren't available from either GW or their subsidiary Forge World. Chapterhouse Studios won the battle because the judge in question had done extensive research into both companies and the subject, then ruled that he saw in no sensible way how Games Workshop had created their own "style" which in turn could be legally copyrighted (only having Shoulders of Doom and skull iconography doesn't cut it). He also judged that Games Workshop cannot copyright models they don't produce (Chapterhouse Studios for example offered full kits that could be used for Warhammer 40,000 since Games Workshop had no actual models released in these cases, only rules). GW, spiteful, then proceeded to pull everything they did not have a model for from their later rule books. Hoist by His Own Petard finally kicked in when the fans of the game, upset about the removal of beloved units and heroes, dialed down shopping which contributed to GW's long string of failing sales.
    • They later did it again when they released Warhammer: Age of Sigmar, renaming their Orc, Elf and Dwarf factions with trademarkable but ridiculous names "Orruk", "Aelf" and "Duardin", among others.
    • This trend would continue with 40K when GW tried but failed to trademark the name "Space Marine." This resulted in the Imperial Guard being officially renamed to the Astra Militarum, and would continue with the release of the Gathering Storm supplements and the 8th edition rules by changing the Eldar race to the Aeldari (as the word 'Eldar' was coined by J. R. R. Tolkien to describe the elves), the Craftworld Eldar to the Asuryani or simply Craftworlders, the Dark Eldar to the Drukhari, and the Tau race to the name of their homeworld, T'au.


  • It's largely thought that Epoch renamed the Sylvanian Families into Calico Critters when selling the toys in the US is due to a lawsuit brought on by electronics company Sylvania. However, the animated series was allowed to be released on DVD under the original title.

    Video Games 
  • RAK Graphics CEO Robert A. Klaus sued Sega for putting his Chakan the Forever Man on Wii. However, his Chakan character is going to appear in a upcoming Wonder Boy arcade game for 2 players (player 1 controls Wonder Boy while Player 2 controls Chakan).
  • Scholastic, the #1 publishing company, did not see a major re-release of its The Magic School Bus video game (for Sega Genesis) on Wii due to Nintendo not getting a Virtual Console edition at all.
  • Holy Invasion of Privacy, Badman! What Did I Do To Deserve This? was forcibly renamed to What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord? after an angry letter from Warner Bros.
  • The Tetris Company claims to have copyrights on basically every aspect of the game, even those which the US Supreme Court has ruled cannot be copyrighted (Lotus v. Borland), and they'll send C&D letters to anyone who dares make a game with falling tetrominoes, or even just the Russian folk song "Korobeiniki"note ; this litigiousness ended up killing Tetris: The Grand Master.
    • Blockles was pulled after a lawsuit from The Tetris Company was settled out of court.
    • This is also what's preventing Tetris Attack from being re-released. The game itself has nothing to do with Tetris, instead being a localization of the Japanese game Panel de Pon. With the head of The Tetris Company openly regretting licensing out the name to Nintendo, the chances of it appearing on the Virtual Console are very slim; as of 2015, it seems the game can only be referred to in works that make reference to the actual Tetris series, such as Super Smash Bros.. Pokemon Puzzle League—an N64 sequel that was heavilly themed around the Pokémon anime and made no reference to Tetris—did get a Wii Virtual Console release, and Puzzle League stuck as the English name on future games.
  • In the Groove stopped development after a lawsuit from Dance Dance Revolution publisher Konami was settled out of court. Similar lawsuits on Guitar Hero (at this point owned by Activision) and Rock Band were less successful.
  • In light of the then-upcoming release of the Japan-exclusive Shining Ark, Sega has launched something of a crusade against anyone who has uploaded videos of older Shining Series games to YouTube and/or Nico Nico Douga, hitting many uploaders' accounts on both sides of the pond (including popular commentator TotalBiscuit) with DMCA notices and causing a number of uploaders to either pull their videos immediately or even see their accounts being shut down as a result. TotalBiscuit refuses to discuss Sega games until 2017 because of this incident.
  • Tales of Eternia was renamed Tales of Destiny II in North America to avoid copyright conflicts with the creators of (He-Man and the) Masters of the Universenote , and is likely one of the reasons North American gamers didn't receive the real Tales of Destiny 2.
  • Most of the Super Robot Wars games, save for the Original Generations series, will most likely never be seen in the States since the American rights to the various mecha used are owned by far too many different companies. The biggest hurdle in this is Harmony Gold, who has been rabidly protective of "their" Robotech "franchise"note  and its components. Because of this, Super Robot Wars V takes a detour around the hurdle for overseas fans: It still won't be released in the States, but the game does have an official English localization for the benefit of game importers.
    • Even then, the series has been affected: Amongst the franchise's Homages to famous mecha anime is the Huckebein series of mechs, which are Gundams in all but name. Eventually Sunrise decided they weren't okay with this, which resulted in Second Original Generations having a scene where every single Huckebein is lined up on the tarmac at an airbase seemingly just so an enemy can blow them all up, and The Federation just decides they aren't going to rebuild them or create any more because...because. The Huckebein Mk-III is subsequently replaced with the Exbein, which is identical except that the head no longer looks like a Gundam's.
  • This is also the case for the Jump Super Stars games, where various Shonen Jump properties are owned by different companies. Sometimes, a different company can hold the manga rights, anime rights, and the merchandising rights, as is the case with Dragon Ball.
  • Having various companies own American and European rights to Tatsunoko series was overcome for Tatsunoko vs. Capcom, as Capcom went through the trouble (and money) to buy all of the rights for every series represented in the game and then some, with the exception of Hakushon Daimaou. This character was removed from the international version as the European copyright holder absolutely refused to sell the rights to Capcom.
    • While the original Japanese-only release of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes had character themes during battles, they were removed in Ultimate All-Stars. This was due to Capcom not being able to get the music rights for the Tatsunoko characters, as their themes were instrumental versions of their respective TV show theme songs. Instead, the stages were given original music themes.
  • The Quest for Glory series was originally named Hero's Quest, but Sierra On-Line had to change the name to avoid potential copyright issues with the makers of the tabletop game Hero Quest. The initial (EGA) release of the game did have that name, though.
  • Neverwinter Nights 2 managed to avoid the total Screwed by the Network suffered by Obsidian's previous game Knights of the Old Republic II. It got two full expansions and a premium module, but it was still fairly buggy when Hasbro/Wizards of the Coast sued Atari over license agreement violations. Continuing game updates after that was probably a low priority. It also resulted in the Steam version being pulled, though it has since been rereleased on
  • Don't expect the first Blood Omen to be rereleased on any time soon, due to a spectacular case of Executive Meddling-induced legal bridge-burning between Silicon Knights and Crystal Dynamics with Activision as an involved sideline third party.
  • Speaking of Silicon Knights, you probably would want to hold on to your copies of Too Human and/or X-Men: Destiny if you bought them before Silicon Knights lost a lawsuit against Epic Games over the latter's Unreal Engine 3 technologyreason . Don't expect to see any fresh copies in any warehouses after 2012, as the court ordered Silicon Knights to eradicate all of the game code for and unsold copies of Too Human, Destiny, and all of their future unreleased projects.
  • Thrill Kill was all but completed when its publishers shut it down over fears of parental-group lawsuits. It now exists in a number of pirated copies initially distributed by its irate programmers.
  • The Wii ports of the Humongous Entertainment games are noteworthy — Atari contracted Majesco to port some of the games, who then outsourced it to Mistic Software, who had the SCUMM SDK and every tool they needed to port the games without much hassle. So what did they choose to do? Completely ignore it, and just slap a ScummVM build onto it, which is a GPL licensed virtual machine that happens to be capable of playing Humongous games. Long story short, they failed to comply to the GPL, and the games had to be pulled. Admittedly though, a lot more people were mad at Mistic in this case than the lawyers.
  • The Amiga CD32 was never released in the U.S. due to a patent dispute, which was the final nail in Commodore's coffin.
  • The N.G.O. Superpower SPECTRE from the James Bond franchise had to be renamed OCTOPUS in 007: From Russia with Love due to a legal dispute between MGM/UA and screenwriter Kevin McClory's estate over the film rights to Thunderball. See the Film section for more details.
  • GoldenEye (1997): Much like the Batman show mentioned above, complex licensing issues have kept this game from seeing a rerelease despite its critical and commercial success. The rights, as of 2013, are in a confused mess between Nintendo (the original publisher) and Microsoft (owners of Rare, the original developer), both of whom would most likely never work together due to being rivals in the Console Wars (before 2013, Activision was also involved due to owning the James Bond game license, though they dropped it after how badly 2012's 007 Legends bombed and nobody else has dared pick them up). There's also probably issues with the image rights of the various actors and actresses whose likenesses appear in the game, an issue which had already killed the "All Bonds" mode planned for the game. Fans looking to play the game in its original form are just going to have to keep circulating those cartridges.
  • Kaiju Combat has the official name of "Colossal Kaiju Combat" due to copyright concerns from Kaijudo.
  • When Sonic the Hedgehog CD was released for iOS, Android, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3, it came with both Japanese/European and American music. However, the Japanese themes, You Can Do Anything and Cosmic Eternity - Believe in Yourself, had their lyrics removed. This is rumored to be due to the estate of the late Casey Rankin not allowing them to use his contribution to the song.
    • Similarly, legal disputes over the music in Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (possibly involving music that Michael Jackson may or may not have contributed) have prevented Sega from rereleasing it since 2011, meaning that it hasn't gotten a Retro Engine remake like Sonic 1, Sonic 2, and Sonic CD got. Ironically, there is an alternate soundtrack for the game that removes most of those contributions, but outside of the PC release of the game, they remain unused.
    • The reason the Sonic Advance Trilogy hasn't been released on the Wii U Virtual Console in the US (they are available on it in Japan) is because the Western distribution rights to all three games were owned by the now-defunct THQ, who published the games in the US. It is unclear if Sega will be able to or will bother to get those rights back in the future, though Nordic Games has acquired the THQ trademark and has become THQ Nordic.
  • The wonderful No One Lives Forever is not going to get any kind of rerelease in the foreseeable future, because nobody seems to know who holds the rights to it. The game was originally published by Fox Interactive, which was bought by Vivendi Universal which in turn was eventually acquired by Activision. However, according to Activision's lawyers, they do not currently possess the rights to the game. The developer Monolith isn't any wiser on the subject either.
    • In 2014 Night Dive Studios attempted to sort out the rights mess and get the game re-released. They contacted Activision, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. all (the last one currently owns Monolith). The response from all three was basically "We're not sure about the rights, and we don't think it's worth the expense of digging through our paper archives to make sure, but if you try to do anything with the property, we'll sue."
  • Star Trek Online is an odd duck. For many years, players believed that Cryptic Studios was not allowed to use anything from the reboot movies, thus the creation of various expies for ships like the Narada and the U.S.S. Vengeance. However, that changed with the release of the third expansion Agents of Yesterday as many things connected to that universe was brought in. As it turns out, Paramount was fine with it - it was Bad Robot they had to hurdle over. The same can be said about the TOS-related ships as Paramount was not fond of having outdated ships having endgame counterparts. A limited edition run of these kinds of ships were released about a month after Agents of Yesterday was released as part of a promo.
  • In December 2013, Marvel, after having their licensing contracts with Activision expire, made Activision stop all digital and physical distribution of the Deadpool video game (only six months after release, even!) and all of their X-Men and non-movie Spider-Man gamesnote  and Capcom the same for the Marvel vs. Capcom series and its DLC, notably including Marvel vs. Capcom 3 DLC playable characters Jill Valentine (who's not a Marvel character) and Shuma-Gorath; since Capcom did not have the foresight to release those two on disc, their playable status in Tournament Play in now in jeopardy due to the Fighting Game Community's MO on non-universally available characters such as console exclusives and delisted DLC being to simply ban them in the name of match-up knowledge fairness.
    • As of December 2016, Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3, Deadpool, and Marvel: Ultimate Alliance were rereleased for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Steam including the aforementioned DLC.
  • Barbie won't get her own Virtual Console releases due to a legal settlement between Mattel and Ubisoft.
  • American Girl won't be seeing the light of day as THQ went bankrupt in 2013, thus shelving the rest of the American Girls Collection video games due to Mattel owning the trademark.
  • Star Trek: 25th Anniversary had just a minor legal hurdle to overcome. The game featured the character Harry Mudd, including a close-up of his face for Enterprise viewscreen communications, which was of good likeness. At the time the game was made Paramount had a policy that whenever the physical likeness of a character from a Star Trek TV series was used in a licensed work, the original actor or their estate would have to give their consent. Unfortunately, the actor who played Harry Mudd passed away just as the game was ready to be released, and they had not secured his permission yet. Rather than delay the release of the game and wait for his inheritance to be settled and obtain permission from his estate, the developers simply changed the close-up into a shadowy silhouette of Mudd.
  • It's speculated that NBA Jam Extreme omitted Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal because those players had contracts with competing game studios. Contractual obligations from the three acting in movies that year (Kazaam for O'Neal and Space Jam for Jordan and Barkley) might have also played a role.
    • That was at least true for Jordan; he later appeared in the Space Jam tie-in game by Extreme publisher Acclaim.
    • Competitor Midway Games failed to dodge the same bullet Acclaim was hit with in their answer to Extreme, NBA Hangtime. In addition to the aforementioned players omitted from Extreme, Muggsy Bogues got written off of Hangtime's roster due to his contractual obligations appearing in Space Jamnote . However, three other players that appeared in the film (Patrick Ewing, Larry Johnson and Shawn Bradley) were exempted from those obligations, and were allowed to appear in both Hangtime and Extreme.
  • Because Fuji Television holds the rights to Doki Doki Panic, it could be a long time before we see the game on Wii U or 3DS Virtual Console. Although the characters were replaced with Mario characters in Super Mario Bros. 2.
  • Hasbro, who holds the licensing rights to World Games and California Games, didn't get to release them as Virtual Console games for Wii, due to a copyright claim by Epyx.
  • The Tiny Toon Adventures video games from Konami. The games and their codes are owned by Konami, but Tiny Toon Adventures is owned by Warner Bros., who have their own video game publishing arm. Because of this, it's unlikely we'll see these games in the Virtual Console service any time soon. Konami's Xiaolin Showdown are also in this same limbo.
  • Disney has a bad habit with the above problem. To name a few:
    • None of Capcom's NES Disney games (including Mickey Mousecapadenote  and both DuckTales games) have been released on the Virtual Console service for Wii or Wii U.note  Additionally, while a "remastered" version of the first DuckTales game has been released, Capcom have stated the deal was just for this game only, and not the original version.
    • As of 2017, the five Capcom NES games received a Compilation Re-release in the form of The Disney Afternoon Collection.
    • Sega's Illusion series starring Mickey Mouse has only seen one reissue: the Genesis Castle of Illusion, which was released only for PlayStation 3 users who pre-ordered the 2013 remake before its release. As for the Master System/Game Gear Castle of Illusions and the other installments, they haven't been reissued at all. And that 2013 remake? No longer available to purchase since September 2016 because Sega lost Disney's license; wouldn't be so hard to acquire a copy if not for the little sticking point that it is a digital-only release. That said, it was quietly returned to all platforms a year later.
    • Another Sega/Disney venture, Quackshot: Starring Donald Duck, hasn't been reissued at all, both Genesis and Saturn versions, on any other platform despite otherwise positive reception. The Genesis version received at least one reissue, being bundled with Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse in 1996 for a collection titled The Disney Collection for Genesis, but that was it. The Saturn version was released exclusively in Japan and was never reissued.
    • Sony Imagesoft's Mickey Mania, for Sega Genesis, Sega CD and the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. While Disney is undoubtedly a factor in the latter three versions' inability to get re-released, the mere presence of a PlayStation port is the major obstacle keeping them from ever getting on the Virtual Console service. That later PlayStation port, titled Mickey's Wild Adventure, got released to the Play Station Network... for Europe and Australia in 2012. Worse still, both Sony and developer Traveler's Tales (which is now owned by Disney rival Warner Bros.) stated that the deal was for that port only, and not the others.
    • Thanks to the acrimonious relationship between Disney and Nintendo, the Mickey Mouse games for the Game & Watch were exiled from the Game and Watch Gallery series of ports of Game & Watch games for Game Boy, and it's unlikely they will resurface anytime soon because of Disney's refusal to license the characters to Nintendo.
  • The Game Boy game Q-Billion is unlikely to get a release on Virtual Console anytime soon. Aruze had owned the Q-Billion copyright after it acquired Q-Billion developer Seta. After Seta shut down operations, Aruze neglected to renew the copyright, and thus, Aruze no longer legally owns the game and they're not sure who does.
  • The infamous Fallout legal dispute involving Interplay Entertainment and Bethesda led to Interplay's Fallout games being pulled from all online stores on January 1st, 2014, notably Steam and Good Old Games. Bethesda, who now owns the Fallout franchise and all installments as part of the legal settlement with Interplay, stated they hoped to bring the titles back to the stores, and did so in the case of Steam later that year. They later returned to in August 2015.
  • Love Nintendo's Popeye? Want to see it on the Virtual Console? Arcade or NES? Too bad, because King Features Syndicate/Hearst refuses to allow them to. To sum it up, King Features is really, really touchy on their products when it comes to licensing, a behavior that is dated back to its establishment, and usually it's a miracle when a deal is somehow reached to have a particular licensed King Features media reissuednote . Namco received a license from King Features and Nintendo to develop a mobile phone (not a smartphone) version of the game, but so far, that's it.
    • The Game & Watch version doesn't fare any better. Being a licensed property, it was excluded from appearing in the Game & Watch Gallery series due to failure to secure the rights from King Features. The Mickey Mouse games (licensed by Disney) also suffered this fate.
  • If you think Popeye had it bad, the video game adaptation of Phantom 2040 didn't fare any better. Because King Features owns The Phantom character, don't expect to see either Sunsoft's SNES port or Illusions Gaming's Sega Genesis port on the Virtual Console anytime soon.
  • Ironically, Nintendo itself was found guilty of violating the copyright for the original arcade version of Donkey Kong, and therefore cannot sell the original game for its consoles — only ports and re-creations. To briefly summarize, the arcade game was written by a company named Ikegami Tsushinki on assignment, but the contract did not include ownership rights to the code. When Donkey Kong became a hit, Nintendo tried to make more boards themselves, and got sued for copyright violation as a result. A detailed article is available here. The arcade version was finally released for the Nintendo Switch as part of Hamster's Arcade Archives series in 2018.
  • On the subject of Donkey Kong, it's widely speculated (though never outright confirmed) that this is the reason it took so long for Donkey Kong 64 to see a Virtual Console release, as it featured Rareware's Jetpac arcade as an Embedded Precursor. The rights to the Donkey Kong characters are owned by Nintendo, but Jetpac is owned by Microsoft. Simply dummying it out wasn't an option either, since it must be played through to obtain a collectible item that is required to complete the game. Apparently a deal was finally struck between both parties, as the game was released for the Wii U Virtual Console in April 2015, retaining everything from the original release.

    Strangely enough, Donkey Kong 64 also had the original Donkey Kong featured in the game as an Embedded Precursor as well—and contrary to what one might expect, this version of the game was the aforementioned arcade version, rather than the NES version published by Nintendo themselves. And just like Jetpac, Donkey Kong also had to be played through in order to collect an item integral towards beating the game proper, nixing the notion of dummying that game out as well. If both games were the main stumbling block to the game's release, then it's honestly a miracle the game saw the light of day again, considering that Nintendo seemingly had to clear two separate copyright issues (one of which was owned by a rival in the Console Wars) in order to secure a Virtual Console re-release.
  • Atarinote  does not hold the rights to the post-1984 Atari arcade catalog from the Atari Games division of the original company, and as such, is unable to reissue any game from that division to other platforms. Instead, the rights to that catalog are owned by Warner Bros., whose parent company retained control of the arcade division of Atari, Inc. following its breakup from the console division, which later became known as Atari Corporation. Thus, unlike the pre-1984 arcade catalog and entire console archive retained by (the current) Atari, the Atari Games catalog is rarely reissued to other platforms, likely due to Warner's historical apathy on Atari. Making matters worse is that the games are reissued under the Midway Games bannernote , instead of Atari Games, due to Warner not wanting to pay for trademark fees to use the "Atari" name.
    • Atari sued to block the PC, PlayStation 4 and Android versions of TxK, claiming that the game infringes on Tempest. Jeff Minter, the creator of the game, also created Tempest 2000. The decision has not been particularly well-received in the video game community. Atari is also trying to get the game removed from the PlayStation Store and make Mintner sign an agreement that he won't make a Tempest-inspired game again.
    • Atari did the same with Haunted House Tycoon, in which they claim that it infringes off of their game. They certainly were not the first company to make a "Haunted House" style gamenote , and Atari's remake Haunted House: Cryptic Graves fared poorly.
  • Rare Replay, a Compilation Re-release for Xbox One commemorating Rare's 30th anniversary, is supposed to include dozens of Rare's most popular video games throughout its history. However, a handful of games were not allowed to be included. A few examples: Donkey Kong 64, all three Donkey Kong Country games, GoldenEye (1997), Diddy Kong Racing, Star Fox Adventures and Mickey's Speedway USA. The first seven are due to Nintendo owning the games outright (in the case of Donkey Kong) or partially owning them (as is the case with GoldenEye, which is also a movie license), while the eighth is due to Disney owning the characters... and even if this trope didn't come into play, all eight games still wouldn't have made the cut due to not belonging to fictional universes 100% created by Rare, as per the internal company goal for the compilation; their chances of inclusions were damned either way. Same goes for California Games, World Games and Wizards & Warriors.
  • Half of the Sabrina: The Animated Series and Sabrina the Teenage Witch games aren't going to be on the Virtual Console, Windows Store (Windows), App Store (Mac), Steam and PlayStation Store due to Archie Comics refusing to license the characters.
  • Harvest Moon is a bit of a Cult Classic, but it's popular enough to receive shelf space in most major retailers. The original Japanese version of the game, known as Bokujou Monogatari (Ranch Story), is created by Marvelous and was localized by Natsume for many years. Marvelous eventually partnered with XSEED Games for their translation, to which Natsume basically said, "Fine, but you can't have the name, and we're gonna make our own game with the name!" This is how we now have Dueling Games: Story of Seasons, the continuation of Bokujou Monogatari under a new name, and Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, the continuation of the Harvest Moon name without the original designers. Naturally, when retailers like Walmart and Best Buy decided which games to stock, they went by name alone, stocking the "new and unproven" game because the brand was successful and passing over the "tried and true" series because it had an unfamiliar title.
  • The Steam version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was untouched for years until a sudden update in 2014 was released out of the blue. The patch did nothing but remove several songs from the game whose licenses expired and since Rockstar didn't want to spend money to renew the licenses (which were likely more expensive now than they were years ago), the songs got cut to prevent a lawsuit. Fans of the game were extremely upset that their favorite songs were cut out and also point out that the Steam version of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City went through a similar process, but Rockstar had simply stopped selling the original version of the game and added a new version without the copyrighted songs so that owners of the original version could still download and play the version they purchased. Grand Theft Auto IV had also gone through a similar change where the digital versions were replaced with updated versions that had songs under the expired licenses removed.
  • This trope is likely the reason why the NES versions of Kung Fu Master (called simply "Kung Fu" in North America) and 10-Yard Fight won't ever see re-releases, unless Irem (the original creators) and Nintendo (who made the NES versions) can work out some kind of deal. Of course, this doesn't stop Irem from re-releasing the original arcade versions since they made and released them themselves.
  • Saban Brands had a hissy fit over Chroma Squad due to its heavy Power Rangers leaning (though it's probably safe to say it was more leaning towards Super Sentai instead). In the end, the game was released with a small tagline proclaiming it's "Based On Saban's Power Rangers".
  • EA's NCAA Football is in indefinite limbo as of 2013; the NCAA strictly forbids athletes from receiving any financial compensation for their participation in college sports, including endorsements and licensing. This meant that all the players in the games could not be referred to by name (but stats, age, and team was okay). In response to legal disputes from former players over demands for royalties for their apparent portrayal, the NCAA ended its licensing agreement with EA. This only meant that they couldn't brand it as an NCAA game (in fact, the first two were called Bill Walsh College Football instead), as EA still had license agreements for team names and other elements from unrelated parties (such as individual conferences, and the Collegiate Licensing Company). However, the conferences followed suit and pulled their license as well, essentially shutting down the series.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was released on the Wii's Virtual Console for 600 Wii Points ($6) instead of the usual 500 points due to the game having to be licensed. When the license ran out, Konami didn't bother to renew it and the game was removed as a result. Didn't buy the game before then? Too bad, it's now gone for good.
  • Pokémon X and Y were released early in Italy and Canada, which resulted in leaks that caused Nintendo to crack down hard on the leakers and the stores that broke street date on the games.
  • Super Mario RPG introduced Geno, a doll given life that can kick ass with his weapons and magic. Because the character was created under Squaresoft's thumb at the time (now known as Square-Enix), the Geno character belongs to them instead of Nintendo, which also means that Geno's chance of appearing in a future Nintendo game is practically nonexistent. However, Geno did appear as a cameo in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga (the credits explicitly attributing his ownership to Square-Enix) and a Mii outfit in the Wii U and 3DS version of Super Smash Bros. is based on Geno's design. note 
  • For years, Electronic Arts had a deal with the automaker Porsche giving them exclusive rights to feature their cars in their games. If you were a fan of a racing game not made by EA and wanted to drive a Porsche, you had to either settle for cars built by Ruf (a German automaker that uses Porsche chassis as the bases of its own cars, which are visually almost identical but seen as legally distinct), or wait for expensive DLC. The deal finally expired in 2016, largely because Porsche didn't want to renew it, seeing it as having hurt their brand awareness.
  • The developers of Friday the 13th: The Game had to scuttle all plans for future updates and DLC effective June 2018, as a side effect of the then-ongoing legal battle between Victor Miller and the Manny Company over the rights to the entire Friday the 13th franchise. This included updates that they were already working on at the time and showing in previews, most notably a Jason X-themed update featuring that film's Uber-Jason as a playable character and a new map in the Grendel spaceship. Given that Friday the 13th: The Game was a multiplayer-focused title, being unable to release any updates for an extended period of time (however long the lawsuit takes) was effectively a kiss of death, with Gun Media announcing shortly after that they would stop all work on the game. (As a side note, the dispute between Miller and the Manny Company has also held up production on any new Friday the 13th movies.)
  • A more malicious example of this trope involves the sad fate of the NFL 2K series. To put it bluntly, not only was Visual Concepts' ESPN NFL 2K5 acclaimed by many critics as a better American Football game than EA Sports' competing Madden NFL 2005 (to this day, it's still recognized as one of the best ever made in the genre), but Sega released the title three weeks before Madden and sold it for only $19.99 as opposed to the $49.99 that was customary for AAA video games (including Madden) during the Sixth Generation. EA's response to the stiffening competition was to sign a deal in January 2005 with the National Football League that granted them the exclusive rights to use the NFL license until 2010 (a deal that would be renewed twice in 2010 and 2015), effectively making Madden the only game in town for football fans unless they were into college football or were willing to play games with fictional teams and leagues (such as Blitz: The League, Backbreaker, and Visual Concepts' own All-Pro Football 2K8, intended as a Spiritual Successor). Sega and Visual Concepts were forced to halt all development on new NFL 2K games, as were Sony and 989 Sports with the NFL GameDay series, Microsoft Studios with NFL Fever, and Midway Games with NFL Blitz, and Sega sold Visual Concepts to Take-Two Interactive later that year. Football fans were not pleased, especially since the deal is often blamed for the growing sequelitis that Madden succumbed to in later years, with all its competition having been killed.
  • On December 31st 2010, EA stopped production of The Battle for Middle-Earth CDs and shut down the official online servers because their Lord of the Rings video game license expired. This has made the games go up to ridiculous prices online and forced fans to Keep Circulating the Tapes in order to make any sort of headway into preserving the games. It also ensures that EA cannot offer the games on their Origin Digital Distribution service either.
  • Take-Two, the new owner of Visual Concepts, took revenge on EA when it bought the exclusive rights to use the Major League Baseball license in multiplatform games, forcing EA to cancel its MVP Baseball series after its well-received 2005 installment. This left the Major League Baseball 2K games as the only game in town for those who didn't own a PlayStation 3 and thus couldn't play Sony's MLB: The Show (which, as a console exclusive, wasn't covered by the deal) — and after MLB 2K, much like Madden, succumbed to sequelitis and eventually saw MLB 2K13 kill the series, owning a Sony console was the only option for people who wanted a pure simulation baseball game. (The relaunched RBI Baseball, published by MLB themselves, is more of an arcade-sim hybrid.)
  • In a variant, the original soundtrack for River City Ransom: Underground was replaced with new music in late 2017 after co-composer Alex Mauer had the game taken down from Steam twice over a copyright dispute. The original music by Mauer, Cheap Dinosaurs and Disasterpeace can be found on the album Ram Son.
  • * The Sega Genesis was to be the first console to receive a VR headset accessory. [1]. Sega's lawyers put a kibosh on the plan after it was found that the beta testers were getting motion sickness due to the console not being powerful enough and was lagging.

    Web Animation 
  • Homestar Runner:
    • The site had a game based on the See 'n Say toy where a main character would speak if the pointer landed on the corresponding picture. The game was revamped in 2007 to a generic toy with buttons making the characters say the same lines. The legal implications associated with the change are apparently so extreme that the site's wiki bars ANY mention of the See 'n Say version. In spite of this, the original game still can be accessed as a secret page.
    • When "Strong Bad Sings" was released to DVD, the song The Cheat played for Strong Mad had to be changed to "Hot Cross Buns". At the time of its release, the original song, "Happy Birthday to You!", was not in the public domain.
  • The Trainsformers shorts, which were a blend of Thomas the Tank Engine and The Transformers, gleefully poked fun at being unauthorized use of copyrighted material and a violation of it. It shouldn't be a surprise that a copyright protest brought down the four videos made. However, the creator lampshaded this in two non-copyright-infringing follow-up videos, and other YouTube users re-posted the videos, anyway.

    Web Comics 
  • This infamous Penny Arcade strip showing Strawberry Shortcake In the Style of... American McGee's Alice had to be taken off the site due to a cease and desist letter the creators got from American Greetings.
  • In Schlock Mercenary, the "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Pirates" had to be changed (even in past strips) to the "The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries" after receiving "the world's politest Cease and Desist letter" from FranklinCovey, the owners of the "Seven Habits..." trademark eight years after the fact. However, Howard Tayler claims he didn't mind seeing as he was looking for an excuse to change the name anyway so he could use the Maxims in The Merch.
  • Mike R. finally explained why Rusty and Co. spent several weeks down in December-January 2012-13. There was a danger of years-long lawsuit, but he and his attorney were able to prove that Rusty and most other elements are covered by OGL, public domain or parodies. Still, a few things did trespass Wizards of the Coast's product identity limitations. For example, Yuan-Tiffany the yuan-ti had to become Y.T. the lamia. His Kickstarter page still says "Rusty the Rust Monster - Plush Toy is the subject of an intellectual property dispute and currently unavailable. [...] Thanks for your patience." But the toys have already started shipping.
  • The Dysfunctional Family Circus, a Remix Comic of Bil Keane's Newspaper Comic The Family Circus, was shut down upon receiving a cease and desist letter. Greg Galcik initially intended to fight it in court, but changed his mind after a (very sympathetic) phone call from Bil Keane himself. They did let the site go on for one more comic (the 500th one, no less).

    Web Originals 
  • In general, YouTube videos that feature copyrighted content tend to get taken down very easily, even if they fall under fair use, due to a combination of the automated Content ID system and how easy it is for parties to file false or misconstrued copyright claims against these videos. Note that where you stand on this is none of our business.
  • Channel101 had to cancel House of Cosbys because of a cease and desist from Bill Cosby's attorney.
  • Moshi Monsters had to take down its character Lady Goo Goo and her music video "The Moshi Dance" and scrap the next planned music video "Peppy-razzi" after Lady Gaga's lawyers won a lawsuit against them claiming people would get confused and think the character was endorsed by her.
  • A few videos from That Guy with the Glasses were removed after direct threats by the rights holders: The Cinema Snob's review of Grizzly II (helps that the movie is unfinished), the Brows Held High episode on Crispin Glover's What Is It, and the only ones that got restored were the Obscurus Lupa and The Nostalgia Critic reviews of The Room (Doug Walker even retaliated by doing this).
    • On a related note, the tendency of The Nostalgia Critic and other shows which use copyrighted material under fair use to be taken down by YouTube's copyright system has become severe enough for Doug Walker to create the hashtag #WTFU (Where's the Fair Use?) in protest of this trope.
  • The Keep Circulating the Tapes page has a section of its description detailing the perils of music rights. Apparently, trailers on YouTube are having the same problem.
  • In one particularly eponymous case, Button's Adventures was taken down by a third party lawyer supposedly on behalf of Hasbro despite that they had no problem with any of the MLP characters used in fan properties that didn't damage the integrity (something that Buttons Adventures most certainly didn't.) Not only had the persons responsible since been fired, but talks were in order with JanAnimations (the creator) for a form of compensation.....but the talks didn't seem to work out.
  • MisterDavie, a YouTube-based animator who did the infamous "Smile HD" music video and the animated adaptation of "Cupcakes", had his works temporarily taken down. This was seen as a good thing by some of the MLP fandom who wasn't keen on his depiction of Pinkie Pie as a mass murderer.
  • One early episode of Red vs. Blue had to have the music on the Warthog changed for the DVD release because Rooster Teeth couldn't figure out who owned the music of the original version.
  • Achievement Hunter had a number of their Let's Plays stopped, started and stopped again due to Nintendo's ever-changing stance in using their material for Let's Plays.
  • Even The Angry Video Game Nerd wasn't immune to this.
    • James Rolfe changed the original show title The Angry Nintendo Nerd to The Angry Video Game Nerd to avoid getting into trouble with Nintendo. He took this opportunity to make it a Meaningful Rename, though, and started reviewing games from other consoles along with the NES and SNES games he'd been reviewing up to that point.
    • Rolfe was asked by New Line Cinema to take down his movie review of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III from YouTube and GameTrailers, not because they were offended by his review or anything, but because the film clips in the video were used without their permission. It was also omitted from the Volume 2 set for this reason. Therefore, only Screw Attack and his company Cinemassacre's website host the review. Rumor has it that this event led to the proposed Angry Movie Nerd side series getting scrapped. Rolfe later re-uploaded the review to YouTube and GameTrailers.
    • This also caused the removal of his reviews of Super Mario Bros. 3 (which featured clips from The Wizard) and the Sega Master System game adaptation of Rocky (which featured clips from the movies), due to angry letters from both NBCUniversal and MGM/UA, respectively, regarding the videos' use of movie clips, again without permission. Both episodes are back up, but at the request of the studios, all of the movie clips were removed. Ironically, the AVGN episode covering the Nintendo Entertainment System tie-in game of Back to the Future did not get into any legal wrangling despite using clips from said movie, also another NBCUniversal property.
  • Parodied in Caddicarus's review of the Video Game adaption of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Caddy starts singing "Thankful Heart" after he finds that the game is So Okay, It's Average (at least, compared to Santa Claus Saves the Earth). He's only 2 lines into the song before:
  • The web series Adult Wednesday Addams, focusing on a grown-up Wednesday Addams as she navigates twentysomething life in Los Angeles, got taken down after its creator Melissa Hunter received a cease-and-desist letter from Charles Addams' estate. Hunter laid out the situation here. Fortunately, some enterprising individuals have taken to reposting the series (no links, for obvious reasons).
  • Two videos from Death Battle have been hit with takedown notices. The first was the Sol Badguy vs. Ragna the Bloodedge due to fan art being used and the creator not being happy with what was being used for credit. The second was the remaster fight between Samus Aran and Boba Fett due to the Dance Party Ending using RWBY's "Shine". Both are back, but the Samus vs. Fett video has the music removed, sadly.
  • Mystery Science Theater F1 had to be posted outside of YouTube, because its episodes would get blocked immediately upon upload.
  • This trope didn't kill The Film Crew outright (via Jim Mallon threatening to pull the MST3K license from Rhino Entertainment if they worked with the project), but it definitely made things more difficult; Nelson, Murphy, and Corbett eventually moved on to RiffTrax, which was much easier to produce.
    • Jim Mallon explained that the reason he didn't want Rhino producing The Film Crew, was they'd be spending money on b-movies for The Film Crew, when they could be using whatever money they had for b-movies shown on MST3K (MST3K only secured temporary rights to their movies while the show was on the air, and the rights have to be re-negotiated for DVDs. It's not easy, or cheap).
    • RiffTrax itself is essentially immune to this trope due to a variation of style, however: they don't release the movies in any form, they merely release tracks of the cast talking about the movies. Obviously, the original copyright holders don't have any claim over things people choose to say about their films. (There are some movies available as pre-synced tracks, but they fall into two categories: either films that are public domain [primarily shorts — one source for them are public domain archives], and B-movies that they can afford to buy the rights to.)
  • The Completionist was forced into a reboot when Jirard was given a request by his former partner Greg to remove all the videos that he was in, which numbered in the dozens. He decided to allow viewers to download the original videos until the start of September 2017 when he would remove them.
  • In late 2017, Google was forced to remove the "View Image" buttonnote  from its Image Search results after a lawsuit from Getty Images arguing that the feature was tantamount to copyright infringement.
  • The Funday Pawpet Show cited issues with music licensing as one of the reasons for their decision to end the show initially, and was also the reason why they switched over to royalty-free/public domain music when they revived the show in September 2018.

    Western Animation 
  • At times, several music videos of Disney's DTV were pulled from YouTube due to music rights. In 2009, Several of them were blocked by WMG (Warner Music Group).
  • Disney's purchase of Marvel Comics put an end to Sony's production of The Spectacular Spider-Man. (In general, Disney's trying to avoid screwing with existing licensing deals, but Sony gave up the TV rights to Spidey so they could keep the movie rights.) Greg Weisman explained the show's situation here; he even points out that the companies themselves weren't to blame, but that it was just bad corporate luck.
  • Disney later repeated the above method with Star Wars: The Clone Wars on Cartoon Network after acquiring Lucasfilm. Thankfully, episodes produced at the time of cancellation later aired on Netflix. Meanwhile, a four-episode arc with unfinished animation was posted to the official Star Wars website for free, another arc called "Bad Batch" was screened at a Star Wars Celebration in 2015, and episodes that didn't make it past the writing stage were adapted to a four-issue comic miniseries starring Darth Maul and a novel called Dark Disciple. Eventually, Disney Un-Canceled The Clone Wars in July 2018.
  • In a similar vein as the examples above, 4Kids couldn't continue with their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adaptation after Nickelodeon acquired the TMNT franchise from Mirage Comics. 4Kids lost the rights to their adaptation to Nickelodeon as part of the deal.
  • This caused the demise of King Louie of The Jungle Book in all Disney media. The family of the late Louis Prima (who voiced Louie in the original movie) sued Disney because Jim Cummings, Jason Marsden and Cree Summer did too good a job impersonating Prima when they voiced the character in TaleSpin and Jungle Cubs. As a result, Louie was completely absent from Jungle Book 2 and replaced by an Expy named King Larry in House of Mouse. The King Louie in The Jungle Book (2016) is also an in-name-only version of the character.
  • Beavis and Butt-Head is now available on DVD without many of the music video commentary segments due to not being able to license that amount of music. Arguably, those segments were half the reason why the show was entertaining. Even the segments that were made available for the DVD releases (on separate discs from the episodes themselves) aren't available online. Mike Judge wouldn't let a third of the series be released since he was embarrassed by it.
  • Some lawsuits by the members of the class depicted in Mrs. Munger's Class (whose likenesses were used without permission) ended the segment's run on One Saturday Morning and shut the door on plans for an ABC primetime version of the cartoon.
  • King of the Hill's third DVD set was released a whole year after the second, and rumor has it that the delay was related to licensing issues for the music, explaining the third to sixth season box sets' lack of bonus features.
  • The US release of The Tick animated series is missing one episode each in the two seasons released so far; due to a prominent minor character bearing a strong similarity to a well-known celebrity, and Buena Vista not wanting to spend the money to secure the likeness rights. Buena Vista still hasn't released the third season; for reasons unknown. The UK region 2 release by Lace International has all three seasons complete and uncut.
  • Music rights were the reason behind the long wait for Daria on DVD; being a MTV produced show, they (ironically) used snippets of new music constantly, often using ten or more just one episode. Even just lasting seconds long, it led to a mind-boggling amount of rights to shuffle through. Eventually, they decided it was either clear all the rights, and pricing Daria out of the market altogether, or re-produce music that sounds good enough to pass for whatever mood they were going for.
  • Prior to the early 2010s, there was a contractual requirement that neither Wonder Woman nor any of her supporting characters could appear in any video production in which she was not one of the main characters. This prevented her from appearing in the DC Animated Universe until Justice League, and Wonder Girl was out of both Teen Titans and the first season of Young Justice. At one point, this was so bad that she couldn't appear in other shows in the DCAU, including crossovers with Justice League. Thus, she was the only Justice League founding member to never appear on Static Shock.
  • The Anvilicious Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue was hit with this, though not as originally expected — for a long time, it was believed that the show wasn't re-aired because the producers never got permission from Jim Davis to use Garfield in the show, and he threatened litigation if it ever aired again. However, Mark Evanier (head writer of Garfield and Friends) has debunked the rumor, and explained the original plan which got the copyright holders to cooperate specified limited airings.
  • VeggieTales' creator Phil Vischer says in "The Whimsical Wizard of Ha's" commentary note  that they got in trouble with New Line Cinema after their release of "Lord of the Beans".
  • This is the major reason why the TV special Daffy Duck and Porky Pig Meet the Groovie Goolies is unlikely get a home video release, since DreamWorks Animation and Warner Bros. are not too fond of each other when it comes to cooperating. The special is available on video sites such as YouTube, but are sourced from low-resolution kinescope prints. And with NBCUniversal's acquisition of DreamWorks in 2016, whether or not it will ever be seen again is even more uncertain.
  • Rugrats had an episode titled "Vacation" that was originally released on videocassette, then broadcast on TV before it mysteriously vanished, and failed to appear on any compilation DVDs note . Depending on who you ask, either Nickelodeon was unable to regain clearance to show the song "Vacation" by The Go-Go's in the opening scene, or it could be a particular scene where Siegfried & Roy look-alikes are attacked by their white tigers (especially when you consider that a similar, real-life event happened six years after it was originally shown).
  • Pingu has suffered this several times when the series was remastered.
    • Originally, "Pingu Looks After the Egg" featured the song "Woodpeckers from Space" from the Dutch group VideoKids. When the entire series was remastered, HiT Entertainment could not get clearance for the song to appear again. As a result, the music was replaced by an instrumental version of David Hasselhoff's "Pingu Dance", which was used as the theme song beginning with Season 3 and replaced the original intro in the remastered versions of Seasons 1 and 2.
    • Likewise, "Ice Hockey" had a version of "Hand in Hand", the official song for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Again, HiT Entertainment could not get clearance for this song and replaced with a random orchestral score.
    • "Music Lessons", which introduced Pingu's grandfather, has a strange variation of this. Reportedly, the Pygos Group was sued by an unknown recording company after they discovered that Pygos did not get clearance to use the accordion music that Pingu's grandfather played while offering lessons to Pingu. Although it was released on VHS, the episode was briefly pulled for a while and not shown until it was remastered by HiT and the music was redone. The remastered version is the only version of the episode that is rerun or released on current home video releases.
  • Warner Bros. co-produced X-Men: Evolution and were responsible for home media distribution. Although the first three seasons were released to DVD in Region 1 (with the first two being released in the form of four volumes each season), the fourth season has yet to receive such treatment, since the rights to the series reverted back to Marvel (and all existing DVDs went out-of-print). Luckily for Americans, Marvel has released the entire series on iTunes, Hulu, YouTube and Google Play, so unless you live outside America, it doesn't really matter if Season 4 is on DVD or not.
  • MGM/UA's plans to release Popeye shorts on home video were put to a screeching halt by a cease-and-desist letter from King Features Syndicate, stating that MGM/UA had no rights to release Popeye material on home video. Even after Turner Entertainment acquired the Popeye cartoon catalog in 1986, it would take up to 2007 for an agreement to finally be reached to officially release the shorts on DVDnote .
    • Rumors began circulating that the legal issues flared up again after the home media releases were suspended after Volume 3 (which featured Popeye cartoons from the early 1940s) was released. Cartoon historian Jerry Beck later clarified that it was due to the prohibitive cost of having to restore more cartoons, and less to do with legal disputes.
  • When Nintendo licensed the Super Mario Bros. for animated television, they included a contractual requirement that Bowser be referred to only as "King Koopa". This also applied to other media, including the Live-Action Adaptation movie. One can only wonder if this obligation carries on to Universal's rumored Animated Adaptation in the works. By The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, the requirement was softened enough to allow his full name "Bowser Koopa" to be used, though not "Bowser" alone.
  • The Alvin and the Chipmunks Direct-to-Video film series that began with Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein was killed by a lawsuit between Universal Studios and Chipmunks licensor Bagdasarian Productions over a contract infraction by Universal, not, as some believed, because of under-performing sales of the second movie, Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman. A third direct-to-video movie, Little Alvin and the Mini-Munks was made entirely by Bagdasarian. 20th Century Fox soon picked up the theatrical rights to Alvin and the Chipmunks afterwards.
  • When the complete series of ChalkZone was released on DVD in October 2014, the set did not include the season two episode "The Smooch" due to music licensing issues- the episode included the Baha Men's cover of "Coconut", and the song was too important to the plot to edit out. Due to the same reasons, the episode was also left off of the episode collections on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video. Fortunately, the DVDs do contain "Power Play" and "All The Way To The Top", which were paired up with the episode (as the show's other releases didn't include them at all). The episode remained in the rerun rotation until 2013 when Nicktoons took the show off of their schedule. Whether or not it will appear in reruns again is unknown.
  • While ratings and budget issues played a major role, Class of 3000 was ultimately screwed over by a lawsuit. A man named Timothy McGee sued Andre 3000 for copyright infringement, claiming that he had pitched a similar series in 1997 called "The Music Factory of the 90's". Whether such a series pilot exists or not is up to debate.
  • The most likely factor in the cancellation of Johnny Test. According to TV producer David Straiton, he and Scott Fellows created the concept for Johnny Test back in 1996, and unsuccessfully pitched it to a number of networks. Years later, he found out that Fellows got the show on TV without crediting or paying Straiton, so Straiton sued Fellows for fraud and accounting malfeasance.
  • The New Scooby-Doo Movies DVD set was missing 8 of the 24 episodes either because Warner Home Video couldn't get clearances from those episodes' guest stars (Phyllis Diller, Jerry Reid) or couldn't afford to pay an extra license to use crossover characters (Addams Family, Josie and the Pussycats).
  • This is the reason why most Nickelodeon Rewind merchandise excludes Doug from anything- when The Walt Disney Company bought the show in 1996, they were given the rights to use Doug's image on merchandise and other promotional material. Nick still owns their episodes and their video rights (as well as promotional material such as stock art used before the Disney buyout), but overall very rarely use Doug on '90s Nick oriented merchandise as they have to ask Disney for permission most of the time.
  • Because KaBlam! had a number of episodes that featured music videos for real songs (usually by They Might Be Giants), as well as the opening being a Real Song Theme Tune ("2-Tone Army" by The Toasters- a few of their other songs were used for the show's ending themes, the eyecatch, and background music), the show is currently the only Nicktoon from the '90s to not receive a home media release, has not aired in regular repeats since 2005, and is barely acknowledged by Nick themselves anymore (possibly to avoid having to deal with all of the music rights). Oddly, this was assumed to be the case with the individual shorts (especially with Angela Anaconda and Untalkative Bunny, which were spun-off into their own series by different companies), however numerous creators of the shorts have stated that Nick owns all the shorts produced, including the ones that were made into their own shows not owned by Viacom (so all Nick would own are the original shorts for them). This excludes the Lava shorts as they were produced by a different company, though all post-2000 reruns cut the shorts from the episodes they were in.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • The character Starlight Glimmer was originally named Aurora Glimmer until an angry letter from Disney led to the name change.
    • Downplayed example: Coco Pommel got to keep her name, but is referred to exclusively as Miss Pommel in the merchandise and from her appearance in Season 6 onwards due to issues with the Chanel estate.
    • Nurse Redheart's cutie mark was subtly changed from a red cross to a white cross with a heart in it or a purple cross, depending on the work, in order to avoid issues with the Red Cross who have begun more fiercely defending their copyright over the symbol owing to it being protected under the Geneva Convention.
  • This is believed to be the reason why Barbie and Ken aren't in Toy Story of Terror! or Toy Story That Time Forgot and why it's unlikely they'll appear in Toy Story 4. After the release of Toy Story 3, the rights to produce Barbie theatrical films were acquired by Sony and so Disney and Pixar can't use the characters for the time being.
  • Until the mess with the great number of clips from other TV shows and movies is sorted out, it could be quite a while before Muppet Babies gets re-released on Region 1 DVD or Blu-ray. Some sources state that those clips were licensed with future use in mind, making the situation unclear.
  • The pre-October 1950 Noveltoons will likely take a while to get an official home video release as Paramount sorts out royalty issues over the use of the characters in the shorts (Paramount owns those shorts, while all the shorts from that point until 1962 are owned by Universal, who owns the characters in question). These issues, ironically, were the result of Paramount's own dumbfuckery, having sold the characters and the post-October 1950-1962 cartoons to Harvey Comics, which Universal now owns.
    • Paramount pulled stupid moves even during animation's golden age. A huge example of this was when Paramount approached Marjorie Henderson Buell, owner of Little Lulu, as their contract for animated shorts was set to expire in 1947. Paramount demanded that Marge relinquish the rights to Little Lulu or they'll stop producing cartoons. Marge didn't take it well; the contract was not renewed and Paramount had to create a knockoff replacement, Little Audrey. Both characters were eventually bought out by Universal.
  • UK fans of South Park had to wait the better part of a decade between the releases of Seasons 4 and 5 of the show, due to a poorly-negotiated home video contract that gave initial UK broadcasters Channel 4 a ten-year deal on all VHS and DVD releases. When Comedy Central pulled Channel 4's broadcasting licence for the show and started showing it on their own UK channel, Channel 4 retaliated by sitting on the home video rights for several years, forcing Comedy Central to wait until the deal had expired and they could release it under their own brand.
  • This is the reason why the Dragon Tunes segments of Dragon Tales haven't been seen since 2010, due to issues to the legal rights to the songs. It also might be a factor in it being the only show from Sesame Workshop not to rerun on HBO (Sony co-owning the series doesn't help). However, when it was on Netflix, each episode was put on there as individual stories to avoid problems with Dragon Tunes.

Alternative Title(s): Cease And Desist